It was just an unfortunate incident, nothing communal about it, the culture minister Mahesh Sharma said airily at that time. Well, that must have been a great comfort to the grieving family of Mohammed Ikhlaq who was lynched by a mob in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh, in December 2015. His crime which led up to the fateful events in which he lost his life after his head was bashed in with a sewing machine was that he had stored, in his own fridge, some meat which our self-appointed cultural commissars discerned to be beef. The reports then said it was mutton, but now comes what we presume is the final word, it was beef all along.
Instead of focusing on apprehending the criminals who not only killed Aklaq but also grievously injured his son Danish, the whole debate shifted to whether the meat in question was actually beef. Could the poor man have actually been done in even though he was storing meat other than beef, asked breathless television channels. For heaven’s sake, the man has every right to store whatever meat he wants in his own fridge in his own house for his own consumption without some self-righteous upholder of bovine rights barging in and attacking him. But, the incident blew up in the face of the right-wing loonies who have taken it upon themselves to stamp out beef from India. There was widespread anger and revulsion across India and the incident made none too flattering headlines across the world.
Then we were told that the poor man lost his life for no reason at all, the meat in question was mutton. Now, the meat in question is apparently beef. The clever bit of interchangeability could well work in justifying the heinous crime. But the real question is why it was necessary in the first place to devote so much attention to the meat. Has anyone any right to dictate what you can store in your fridge? If it was the meat of an endangered species, maybe the wildlife authorities could confiscate it. The issue at hand is that under the guise of some misplaced religious zeal and cow protection, vigilante groups are taking the law into their own hands. The fact that these people can enter homes to examine the contents of one’s fridge is only a step away from them entering our personal lives and dictating our preferences not just in food but in our very lifestyles.
The irrepressible Mahesh Sharma who really had no business speaking on this in the first place apart from the fact that he considers himself a guardian of our “culture” would have better served the nation by saying that this sort of evil has nothing to do with our culture, it is just barbarism disguised as a noble crusade to protect the cow. But we can now expect a ding dong battle and a bit of gloating “I told you so” over the revelation that the meat was actually beef ergo Ikhlaq was a bit of a villain. What next? An attack on milk consumption, after all it is a byproduct of the holy cow.