Examining India's Beef Ban: Why this Brahmin isn't a Fan

Every Sunday morning, a few of my friends and I meet up at our favorite crêperie for brunch.

While crepes, butter, bananas, strawberries, and a plentiful heaping of Nutella are always expected, I also consider bacon to be a crucial staple of this weekly ritual. Without it, I'd be lost.

One of my friends that happens to join us for our weekly rendezvous is Muslim. She and I have been close friends for about a decade now, and neither of us, I am fairly certain, could function properly without the other.

As I eat my bacon, she inevitably turns up her nose and claims that the road to hell isn't paved through good intentions, it is paved through eating pork. I continue eating with great zest.

She's just joking, you know.

And the good news is, even if she is not, she can't stop me from doing what I want.

But what if she could? What if suddenly, the US implemented a federal law banning the consumption of pork? Wouldn't it be absolutely ridiculous, especially since we function as a secular democracy and ought to never make any laws respecting the establishment of one particular faith?

It turns out that on the other side of the globe, in India - the largest functioning secular democracy on the planet- something equally drastic is happening.

Recently, several states within India have introduced a ban on the slaughter and consumption of cows.

Let me explain why this is bad.

While India is composed of a diverse array of ethnic groups, one of the main distinctions between its people arises from differences in faith. About 80% of Indians practice some brand of Hinduism; then, the largest minority faith is Islam, with about 14 % of the Indian populace identifying as Muslim. About 5% of the population is composed of Sikhs, Jains, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, and Zoroastrians. The remaining 1% is composed of those that either do not affiliate with any faith or practice a faith completely distinct from the above named.

Typically, Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and Buddhists follow the same general diet, with a distinct aversion for the consumption of most meat products, viewing the act of eating meat as akin to committing violence. Many of these people are vegetarians, and their faiths emphasize the honor of purity in diet.

Let me take this time to say that in my opinion, choosing to give up meat from one's diet is a noble sacrifice.

But should everyone be forced into making this sacrifice?

Absolutely not.

About 14% of the Indian population is Muslim; this population does not share the sentiments of the majority Hindu populace (who view the cow as sacred, and killing the innocent and productive animal as a gross sin and waste) regarding meat consumption.

Of this group, about 95% live below the poverty line. In India, the Muslim community is typically more poor, less educated, and more likely to have violent crimes perpetrated against them than even allegedly "lower caste" Hindus (who share a ripe history of violent atrocities committed against them by supposed "higher caste" Hindus).

When a source of food is cut off from a population in dire need of resources, problems ensue.

Eating beef in India is cheaper than going on a vegetarian diet; it also happens to be more nourishing in smaller portions. This means that the poor can eat less, and feel fuller.

Good, right?

Well, evidently that isn't enough to convince the Indian federal government to prohibit individual states from implementing the oppressive beef ban.

Neither, apparently, is the surging violence against Muslims in India accused of eating beef. Recently, a Muslim man was lynched in his village on the accusation of hiding beef in his house. It later turned out that the meat he had in his home was mutton.

However, there is hope.

India isn't home to the largest and most diverse democracy on earth for nothing. Over 40 prize-winning authors, most of them Hindu, have returned their awards, citing that in the face of growing intolerance, such paltry awards are farcical. Acclaimed movie directors and actors within the Indian film industry have taken to publicly condemning the policy of prohibition. Even the Indian Prime Minister, a member of the BJP (which identifies itself as the Hindu nationalist party of India) has condemned the rising violence, claiming that "[Hindus] should decide whether to fight against Muslims or against poverty".

Forcing the individual preferences of a segment of the population unto the entire community is not viable public policy, especially for a secular democratic nation.

This Sunday, as I again eat my bacon with relish, I will remember this.