It would not have been unwise to assume a few years ago that religious intolerance and caste-based violence would be a frequent occurrence. Over the years, several reported (once can only imagine how many go unreported) crimes have been committed, all based on intolerance towards another section of society.
The recent talks of a meat ban in Delhi have sparked a nationwide conquest among certain people to make it a national reality. Now, students of the Jawaharlal Nehru University are caught up in a discourse that should ideally be laughable, but modern India is set out to make it a defining moment for us. Two involved parties –– Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union (JNUSU) and Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) –– are at play. The former states that there were demands from the latter to ban the serving of meat on Sundays in the Kaveri hostel, and attacked the respective students. On the other hand, ABVP alleges that JNUSU stormed their Ram Navami puja, and the violence began there.
Riding on the back of what began as a beef ban, the tide of intolerance among Hindu supremacist groups is reaching new heights. India, in its entirety and long history, has never been a vegetarian country. Vegetarianism comes with baggage riddled with the atrocities of the caste system and aimed to separate upper-caste, pure Hindus from those that consumed meat and hence were considered impure. For a long time, what one eats has formed their identity, and as Satyanarayana states in Dalit Reconfiguration Of Caste: Representation, Identity And Politics (2014), “In this new reimagining, the project is not the annihilation of caste but to reconfigure it as a contemporary form of power, as modern, and subjective.” This is where the seeds of hate lie - to reshape India in a modern form of the power system of the past.
With 16 injured students in JNU, it must be realised that the politics of meat consumption began in the past but should have also remained there. The blatant intolerance of another human –– with character, history, ambitions, ideologies –– is so evident, that violence over what one eats is not even a thing of novelty anymore. What took place in JNU must not be termed as an ‘event’. It comes as the latest in a series of attacks motivated by a seemingly unstoppable supremacy movement.
The very people that speak of India being the greatest nation fail to recognise that the homogenising of a country as diverse as India, in itself, is against its very principles. We must question –– whose rights are we putting in jeopardy here? In fact, are we jeopardising rights or sensitive egos? Who dictates what India should and should not eat?
The answers to all of these questions are layered with identity politics, bias, and a visible wave of individuals seeking supremacy based on religion. Those who suffer at the end of the day, are those who are living their lives as they have always lived but are now targeted for it.
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