Skip to main content

Gandhi opposed ban on cow slaughter, Ambedkar wrote it was common practice in ancient India

Gandhi with Madan Mohan Malaviya
By Rajiv Shah
At a time when lynching of Mohamad Ashfaq on the “suspicion” of keeping beef in his refrigerator is sought to be justified by powerful politicians of the country, facts have come to light suggesting that two of the most important pillars of modern India, Mahatma Gandhi and Baba Ambedkar, opposed ban on cow slaughter tooth and nail.
Speaking at a prayer meeting in Delhi on July 25, 1947, Gandhi said he would advise thousands of those who had written to Rajendra Prasad demanding a ban on cow-slaughter not to “waste money”, as their postcards, letters and telegrams  had had “no effect” (click HERE to read the full text).
Referring to a telegram he received “which says that a friend has started a fast for this cause”, Gandhi insisted, “In India no law can be made to ban cow-slaughter”, underlining, “I shall suggest that the matter should not be pressed in the Constituent Assembly.” The Constituent Assembly, under Ambedkar’s chairmanship, was then already involved in the onerous task of making of the Indian Constitution.
Gandhi argued, he did not “doubt that Hindus are forbidden the slaughter of cows” and he too has “long pledged to serve the cow.” However, he asked, “How can my religion also be the religion of the rest of the Indians? It will mean coercion against those Indians who are not Hindus.”
Gandhi declared, “How can I force anyone not to slaughter cows unless he is himself so disposed? It is not as if there were only Hindus in the Indian Union. There are Muslims, Parsis, Christians and other religious groups here. The assumption of the Hindus that India now has become the land of the Hindus is erroneous. India belongs to all who live here.”
Pointing towards the possible consequences of banning cow slaughter, Gandhi said, “If we stop cow-slaughter by law here and the very reverse happens in Pakistan, what will be the result? Supposing they say Hindus would not be allowed to visit temples because it was against Shariat to worship idols? I see God even in a stone but how do I harm others by this belief?”
Pointing out that “some prosperous Hindus themselves encourage cow-slaughter”, Gandhi asked, “Who sends all the cows to Australia and other countries where they are slaughtered and whence shoes manufactured from cow-hide are sent back to India?”
“We really do not stop to think what true religion is and merely go about shouting that cow-slaughter should be banned by law. In villages Hindus make bullocks carry huge burdens which almost crush the animals. Is it not cow-slaughter, albeit slowly carried out?”, he wondered.

Ambedkar on beef eating in ancient India

Ambedkar, in an erudite article, ‘Did the Hindus never eat beef?’ said, “When the learned Brahmins argue that the Hindus not only never ate beef but they always held the cow to be sacred and were always opposed to the killing of the cow, it is impossible to accept their view”.
The article is available in “The Untouchables: Who Were They and Why They Became Untouchables?” in Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Writings and Speeches, vol 7 (Government of Maharashtra, Bombay, 1990, first edition 1948), and appears on pages 323-28 (click HERE to read full article).
Quoting relevant text, Ambedkar said, those who refer to Rig Veda to support opposition to cow slaughter forget that their “conclusion is based on a misreading and misunderstanding of the texts”, as the “adjective, Aghnya, applied to the cow in the Rig Veda, means a cow that was yielding milk and therefore not fit for being killed.”
Ambedkar underlined, “That the Aryans of the Rig Veda did kill cows for purposes of food and ate beef is abundantly clear from the Rig Veda itself. In Rig Veda (X. 86.14) Indra says: ‘They cook for one 15 plus twenty oxe'. The Rig Veda (X.91.14) says that for Agni were sacrificed horses, bulls, oxen, barren cows and rams. From the Rig Veda (X.72.6) it appears that the cow was killed with a sword or axe.”
Giving more evidence, Ambedkar said, “Among the Kamyashtis set forth in the Taittiriya Bramhana, not only the sacrifice of oxen and cows is laid down, but we are even told what kind and description of oxen and cows are to be offered to what deities. Thus, a dwarf ox is to be chosen for sacrifice to Vishnu; a drooping horned bull with a blaze on the forehead to Indra as the destroyer of Vritra, a black cow to Pushan, a red cow to Rudra, and so on.”
Ambedkar said, “The killing of cow for the guest had grown to such an extent that the guest came to be called ‘Go-ghna’ which means the killer of the cow. To avoid this slaughter of the cows the Ashvateyana Grahya Sutra (1.24.25) suggests that the cow should be let loose when the guest comes so as to escape the rule of etiquette.”
“Such is the state of the evidence on the subject of cow-killing and beef-eating”, Ambedkar commented, though adding, “The testimony of the Satapatha Brahmana and the Apastamba Dharma Sutra insofar as it supports the view that Hindus were against cow-killing and beef-eating, are merely exhortations against the excesses of cow-killing and not prohibitions against cow-killing.”
“Indeed the exhortations prove that cow-killing and eating of beef had become a common practice. That notwithstanding these exhortations cow-killing and beef-eating continued. That most often they fell on deaf ears is proved by the conduct of Yajnavalkya, the great Rishi of the Aryans”, Ambedkar emphasized, adding, “After listening to the exhortation this is what Yajnavalkya said: ‘I, for one, eat it, provided that it is tender’.”
Ambedkar further quoted from the Buddhist Sutras to point towards “the scale on which the slaughter of cows and animals took place.” Insisting that it was “colossal”, he referred to the Kutadanta Sutta “in which Buddha preached against the performance of animal sacrifices to Brahmin Kutadanta. Buddha, though speaking in a tone of sarcastic travesty, gives a good idea of the practices and rituals of the Vedic sacrifices.”
Ambedkar quoted Buddha as saying, “O Brahmin, at that sacrifice neither were any oxen slain, neither goats, nor fowls, nor fatted pigs, nor were any kind of living creatures put to death. No trees were cut down to be used as posts, no Darbha grasses mown to stress around the sacrificial spot. And the slaves and messengers and workmen there employed were driven neither by rods nor fear, nor carried on their work weeping with tears upon their faces.”
Concluded Ambedkar: “With this evidence no one can doubt that there was a time when Hindus, both Brahmins and non-Brahmins, ate not only flesh but also beef.”

Comments

TRENDING

World Bank clarifies: Its 26th rank to India not for universal access to power but for ease of doing business

By Our Representative
In a major embarrassment to the Government of India, the World Bank has reportedly clarified that it has not ranked India 26th out of 130 countries for providing power to its population. The top international banker’s clarification comes following Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal’s claim that India has “improved to 26 position from 99” in access to electricity in just one year.

Mental health: India's 95% patients "deprived" of medical care, treatment gap 70%

By Moin Qazi*
Among the many challenges India faces, the most underappreciated is the ongoing mental health crisis. Mental illness is actually India’s ticking bomb. An estimated 56 million Indians suffer from depression, and 38 million from anxiety disorders. For those who suffer from mental illness, life can seem like a terrible prison from which there is no hope of escape; they are left forlorn and abandoned, stigmatized, shunned and misunderstood.

Modi model? "Refusal" to build Narmada's micro canals, keep Kutch dry; help industry

By Medha Patkar*
This is the latest photograph of the Kutch Branch Canal (KBC) of the Sardar Sarovar, as of April 8! What does it show, expose, and what memories do you recall? Is it dry or dead? Is it a canal or a carcass of the same?

Bill Gates "promoting" GMO, Bt cotton, like cartels that have roots in Hitler's Germany

By Our Representative
World-renowned environmental leader and ecologist Dr Vandana Shiva has expressed concern that Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft Corporation, has joined the bandwagon of “a poison cartel of three" – Monsanto and Bayer, Syngenta and ChemChina, Dow and DuPont – all of whom allegedly have “roots in Hitler’s Germany and finding chemicals to kill people”.

Indian talc products contain "contaminated" asbestos structures, can cause cancer: Study

Counterview Desk
A recent study, using polarizing light microscopy, transmission electron microscopy (TEM), electron diffraction, and X-ray analysis on multiple over-the-counter Indian talc products for the presence of asbestos, has concluded that large quantities of body talc products are likely to pose a public health risk for asbestos-related diseases, especially for the cancers related to asbestos exposure.

Why are you silent on discrimination against Dalit jawans? Macwan questions Modi

By Rajiv Shah
Close on the heels of releasing his book in Gujarati, "Bhed Bharat", which lists 319 cases of atrocities against Dalits and Adivasis across the country over the last five years, well-known Gujarat Dalit rights leader Martin Macwan has shot an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, telling him the reasons why he does not want vote for the BJP.

Jharkhand Adivasi lynched to death by mob "chanting" Jai Shri Ram: Fact-finding team

Counterview Desk
On April 10, 2019, Prakash Lakda, a 50-year old Adivasi of Jurmu village of Gumla’s Dumri block, was lynched to death by a mob of men from the Sahu community of neighbouring Jairagi village. Three other victims from Jurmu – Peter Kerketta, Belarius Minj and Janerius Minj – sustained severe injuries due to the beating by the mob. A fact-finding team of Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha (JJM), comprising of several activists and representatives of member organisations, conducted a fact-finding inquiry into the incident on April 14-15.

Investigation shows Narmada downstream "seriously" polluted. Reason: apathy, greed

By Rohit Prajapati, Krishnakant, Swati Desai*
Our investigation regarding quality of water flowing in the Narmada river downstream of the Sardar Sarovar Dam (SSD), dated April 6, 2019, between 11.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. reiterates, what is commonly known now, that the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) is planned without considering its impact on the downstream Narmada River stretch of 161 kilometres, its ecology, biodiversity and fishery, and lakhs of people living close to and dependent on the river directly or indirectly. This, in turn, has led to its present disastrous state.

Emergence of a rare Dalit teacher in IIT-Kanpur "disturbed" certain faculty members

By PS Krishnan, IAS (Retd)*
Dr Subrahmanyam Sadrela, a faculty member in the Department of Aerospace Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Kanpur since January 1, 2018, and one of the rare Dalit members of the faculty in IIT group of institutions, is facing the threat of revocation of his PhD thesis, and thereby also jeopardizing his job and career.

RTE in remote areas? Govt of India "plans" to close down 2.4 lakh schools

By Srijita Majumder*
The Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009, came into effect on April 1, 2010, for the first time made it obligatory on the part of the State to provide free and compulsory education to all children from 6-14 years of age in India. The Act, despite its limitations, had progressive elements like neighbourhood schools, community participation, ban on corporal punishment, no detention, continuous and comprehensive evaluation and it hence it appeared that India was not far from achieving universal elementary education.