Public slaughter of calf in Kerala puts Congress in a tight spot, gives BJP fresh ammo
A video recording of Youth Congress Kannur mandal president Rajeel Makutty and his supporters skinning a calf and distributing the meat to people has stirred up a hornet's nest.
The incident occurred during the protest organised by the Kannur wing of the Youth Congress against the Centre's ban on sale of animals for slaughter at cattle markets.
On the backfoot
As expected, the video has gone viral, evoking criticism from all quarters. Many have labelled it as 'a political suicide' by the grand old party in wake of the current hysteria surrounding cow protection. It certainly is a major setback for Congress that is trying hard to counter a resurgent BJP, which has been successful in using cow as a symbol to rake up communal passions across the country.
This video has certainly put the party on the back foot, which is clearly visible in the multiple statements issued by the party condemning the incident. But nothing seems to be working for the party which is facing a lot of flak on social media platforms and WhatsApp messages.
An emotive issue
Recurring incidents of Muslims being lynched in the name of cow protection by vigilante groups are a testament of how BJP has made cow an emotive issue for a large sections of Hindus. Patronage of the ruling party has further emboldened these fringe elements who are now attacking anyone on mere suspicion of possession of beef or cattle smuggling.
Till now, the right wing was forced to circulate fake videos of cow slaughter to spread hate against the minorities, but now they have found the video that is genuine and can also be useful to wreck political vendetta. In these circumstances, this video has provided fresh ammunition to those opposed to the Congress. The saffron brigade will certainly exploit it for political gains and portray the grand old party as a entity in favour of cow slaughter.
A wary Congress
In the aftermath of this incident, several photographs of Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi accompanying Mukutty are being widely shared on social media by BJP sympathisers.
And as expected, Congress is being accused of harbouring beef eaters in its ranks. Even Congress sympathisers took to social media to register their protest against the public slaughtering of the calf and called it shameful. Others are calling it a final nail in the coffin for Congress' future as a political party.
Wary of this backlash, the party immediately distanced itself from the public slaughter of the calf and suspended all those associated with it. In fact, soon after the news of calf slaughter spread like wildfire, Rahul Gandhi condemned the incident and tweeted, “What happened in Kerala yesterday is thoughtless,barbaric& completely unacceptable to me &the Congress Party.I strongly condemn the incident.”
Worried over how it would play out in the days to come, Congress suspended three leaders of its youth wing involved in the incident.
The party's chief spokesperson RS Surjewala was on damage control mode when he issued a statement which read, “India's ethos and Congress party’s culture abjures any kind of violence or barbarism against every living being much less the ‘Cow’, which has a special place in the hearts and mind of people of India. The horrific incident in Kerala is reprehensible and absolutely condemnable. Such action is alien to our way of life. Such elements have no place in the Congress party. The Youth Congress has therefore suspended the so called activists.”
However, Congress did attempt to counter the BJP by accusing it of double speak and deception and cited several incidents wherein the saffron party has benefited from sale of beef. Congress distributed pictures of a slaughterhouse in Goa which according to them is run by the central government and Goa government.
The party also quoted Union minister Kiren Rijiju who had earlier said, “I eat beef, I'm from Arunachal Pradesh, and can somebody stop me? So let us not be touchy about somebody’s practices. This is a democratic country. Sometimes, some statements are made which are not palatable.”
Surjewala also highlighted how BJP presidents of Meghalaya, Nagaland, Mizoram have reiterated their commitment to sale of beef at subsidised rates and questioned BJP's stand on that.
Moreover, the party raised other issues like BJP leader Sangeet Som's founding India's leading producer and exporter of halal meat – Al-Dua Food Processing Private Ltd. The party has spoken about the issue of beef exports jumping nearly 70% under BJP rule and how meat production in Gujarat shot up under Narendra Modi's tenure as the chief minister.
On 28 May, Kannur police booked 16 members of the Youth Congress and charged them under IPC Section 428 and section (ii) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960. Several youth groups of Congress and Left parties organised beef festivals to protest against the government's decision to ban sale of animal for slaughter from cattle markets.
But the public slaughter of the calf has certainly backfired for the party that is clearly on the backfoot and struggling to find ways to wriggle out of this very uncomfortable situation. It remains to be seen how much political damage will this incident cause which will only be reflected when the party goes to polls in several big states like Gujarat, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh.
Edited by Aleesha Matharu