Dalit leader and BJP MP Udit Raj is caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, Udit Raj, a BJP MP from Northwest Delhi consituency, is expected to toe the party line on the controversial issue of cow protection, and on the other, he, a Dalit leader from Uttar Pradesh, is also expected by his followers to speak out on issues that are beneficial or inimical to the community.
That these two identities will not gel with each other at all times was evident on Monday when Udit Raj tweeted: “Usain Bolt of Jamaica was poor and trainer advised him to eat beef both the times and he scored 9 gold medals in Olympic”.
After cow vigilantes/BJP supporters hauled him over the coals for his “controversial” comment, Udit Raj, as all politicians do, came up with an creative explanations: “All I wanted to say is that giving excuses that we don’t have infrastructure or there is corruption should be done away with and lesson, dedication should be learnt from Usain Bolt… What I wanted to say is our players should find ways and means as he found ways and means”.
He added: “There is no lack of facilities for sports persons in the country. Government spends a huge amount of money on them compared to nations like Jamaica or Kenya”. This will surely make his political bosses happy but, I think, the damage has been done.
In other words, Udit Raj, a Dalit leader, chickened out under pressure on an issue where his voice/ political intervention could have been important, especially after what happened in Una, Gujarat, where Dalit men were beaten up by cow vigilantes for skinning a dead cow last month.
In the first place, Udit Raj should not have mixed sports with politics to explain why beef eating is important for certain communities; there are enough people out there trying to do this to the detriment of India’s sportsmen.
Moreover, there are enough reasons to criticise cow vigilantism: How beef is the only source of cheap protein for poorer sections of society; how overzealous cow ‘protectors’ are undermining the leather and dairy industry (where the main income comes from selling cross-bred cows); and, not to miss the plight of the animals themselves who are abandoned by owners because there are no gaushalas to keep them. Last but not the least, our freedom of choice to eat what we want, including beef.