You are here:
ONLINE BOOKS > GANDHI AND COMMUNAL PROBLEMS > Religious aspects of the Communal Problem > Cow slaughter and Cow-Protection
14. COW SLAUGHTER AND COW-PROTECTION
Cause of Friction
SAVE FOR the cow, the Hindus have no ground for quarrel with Musalmans.
The first (constant cause of friction) is cow slaughter. Though I regard cow-protection as the central fact of Hinduism, central because it is common to the classes as well as the masses, I have never been able to understand the antipathy towards the Musalmans on that score. We say nothing about the slaughter that daily takes place on behalf of Englishmen: Our anger becomes red hot when a Musalman slaughters a cow. All the riots that have taken place in the name of cow have been an insane waste of efforts. They have not saved a single cow, but they have, on the contrary, stiffened the backs of the Musalmans and resulted in more slaughter.

NO Obligation
The latter (Musalmans) are under no religious obligation to slaughter a cow.
The Koran so far as I have been able to understand it, declares it to be a sin to take the life of any living being without cause. I want to develop the capacity to convince the Musalmans that to kill the cow is practically to kill their fellow countrymen and friends, the Hindus. The Koran says that there can be no heaven for one who sheds the blood of an innocent neighbor.

Beef eating
The standing complaint of Hindus against Musalmans is that the latter are beef eaters and that they purposely sacrifice cows on the Bakri Id day.
It is generally known that I am a staunch vegetarian and food reformer. But it is not equally generally known that Ahimsa extends as much to human beings as to lower animals and that I freely associates with meat-eaters.
Hindus may not compel Musalmans to abstain from meat or even beef eating. Vegetarian Hindus may not compel other Hindus to abstain from fish, flesh or fowl. I would not make India sober at the point of the sword. Nothing has lowered the morale of the nation so much as violence.

No Reform by Compulsion
As a Musalman friend writes, beef eating which is merely permissible in Islam will become a duty, if compulsion is resorted to by Hindus.
Once, while in Champaran, I was asked to expound my views regarding cow protection. I told my Champaran friend then that, if anybody was really anxious to save to the cow, he ought once for all to disabuse his mind of the notion that he had to make the Christians and Musalmans to desist from cow-killing. Unfortunately today we seem to believe that the problem of cow protection consists merely in preventing non-Hindus, especially Musalmans, from beef eating and cow killing. That seems to be absurd. Let no one; however, conclude from this that I am indifferent when a non-Hindus kills a cow or that I can bear the practice of cow killing. On the contrary, no one probably experiences a greatly agony of the soul when cow is killed. But what am I to do? Am I to fulfill my dharma myself or am I to get it fulfilled by proxy? Of what avail would be my preaching brahmacharya to others if I am at the same time steeped in vice myself? But supposing even that I myself do not kill the cow, is it any part of my duty to make the Musalmans, against his will, to do likewise?
The very Hindus who quarrel with the Muslims because they slaughter the cow for the beef she gives are not ashamed to accept the mastery of the English who are known to be beef-eaters in a sense in which the Muslims never are. I have no quarrel with the Englishmen because they eat beef and as such I have none with Muslims either. I am concerned with showing the great inconsistency of the Hindus who for the sake of money gladly serve their English masters and quarrel with the Muslims. Then we forget that there are Hindus who gladly partake of beef. I have known orthodox Vaishnavas who eat-extract when it was prescribed by their doctors.

Freedom of Food
I do not know how this question (Will the Muslims be allowed to eat their national food-beef under a Hindu majority Government?) arises. For, whilst Congressmen were in office, they are not known to have interfered with the practice of beef-eating by Muslims. The question is also badly conceived. There is no such thing as Hindu majority Government.
It is, moreover, not true to say that beef is the national food of Muslims. In the first place, the Muslims of India are not as yet a separate nation. IN the second, beef is not their ordinary food. Their ordinary food is the same as that of the millions. What is true is that there are very few Muslims who are vegetarians from religious motive. Therefore, they will take meat, including beef, when they can get it. But during the greater part of the years, millions of Muslims, owing to poverty, go without meat of any kind. These are facts. But the theoretical question demands a clear answer. As a Hindu, a confirmed vegetarian, and a worshipper of the cow whom I regard with the same veneration as I regard my mother (alas, no more on this earth!) I maintain that Muslims should have full freedom to slaughter cows, if they wish, subject of course to hygienic restrictions and in a manner not to wound the susceptibilities of their Hindu neighbours. Fullest recognition of freedom to the Muslims to slaughter cows is indispensable of communal harmony, and is the only way of saving cow.

Essence of Hinduism
Hinduism does not consist in eating and not eating. Its essence consists in right conduct, in correct observance of truth and non-violence. Many a man eating meat, but observing the cardinal virtues of compassion and truth and living in the fear of God, is better Hindu than a hypocrite who abstains from meat.
He whose eyes are opened to the truth of the violence in beef-eating and who has therefore rejected them, who loves both man and bird and beast is worthy of our adoration. He has seen known God; he is His best devotee. He is the teacher of mankind.

Muslim Response
It is not correct to say that the appeal of the Khilafat associations against cow-killing leaves the Musalmans cold and unresponsive. In the first place, is it not a cheering phenomenon that Khilafat workers, themselves Musalmans, are working to prevent cow-killing? In the second place, I venture to assure that the appeal has had wonderful success in almost all parts of India. It is a small matter that the burden of cow-protection has been taken over almost entirely by Musalman workers? Was it not a soul stirring thing for Hindus to witness Messrs. Chhotani and Khatri of Bombay rescuing hundreds to cows from their coreligionists and presenting them to the grateful Hindus?
I have been telling Maulana Shaukat Ali along that I was helping him to save his cow, i. e., the Khilafat, because I hoped to save my cow thereby. I am prepared to place my life in the hands of the Musalmans, to live merely on their sufferance. Why? Simply that I might be able to protect the cow. I hope to achieve the end not by entering into a bargain with the Musalmans but by bringing about a change of heart in them. So long as this is not done, I told my soul in patience. For I have not a shadow of doubt in my mind that such a change of heart can be brought about only by our own correct conduct towards them and by our personal example.
I offered to share with the Musalmans their suffering to the best of my capacity not merely because I wanted their co-operation for winning Swaraj but also because I had in mind to object of saving the cow.
If the Khilafat question had a just and legitimate basis, as I believe it had, and if the Government had really committed a gross injustice, the Hindus were bound to stand by the Musalmans in their demand for the redress of the Khilafat wrong. It would ill become them to bring in the cow question in this connection, or to use the occasion to make terms with the Musalmans, just as it would ill become the Musalmans to offer to stop cow-slaughter as a price for the Hindus support on the Khilafat question. But it would be another matter and quite graceful, and reflect great credit on them if the Musalmans of their own free will to stop cow slaughter out of regard for the religious sentiments of the Hindus, and from a sense of duty towards them as neighbours and children of the same soil. To take up such an independent attitude was, I contended, their duty, and would enhance the dignity of their conduct. But, if the Musalmans considered it as their neighbourly duty to stop cow slaughter, they should do so regardless of whether the Hindus helped them in that Khilafat or not.
I am satisfied that during 1921 more cows were saved by the sole and willing effort of Muslims themselves. In spite of the black clouds hanging over our heads, I refuse to give up the hope that they will disperse and that we heads, I refuse to give up the hope that they will disperse and that we shall have communal peace in this unhappy land. If I am asked for proof I must answer that my hope is based on faith and faith demands no proof.
The late Maulana Abdul Bari used to say that, if the Hindus helped the Muslims to save the Khilafat, the Muslims were bound to save the cow for the sake of the Hindus.
I claim that, without the assistance of law, but because of my being able to cultivate friendship with the Muslims of India during the Khilafat days, I have been instrumental in saving more cows from the butcher’s knife than any other individual.

Cow-Protection and Hinduism
Cow-protection is the dearest possession of the Hindu and heart. It is the one concrete belief common to all Hindus. No one who does not believe in cow-protection can possibly be a Hindu. It is a noble belief Cow-worship means to me worship of innocence. For me, the cow is the personification of innocence. Cow-protection means the protection of the weak and the helpless. Cow protection means brother hood between man and beast. It is a noble sentiment that must grow by patient toil and tapasya. It cannot be imposed upon anyone. To carry cow-protection at the point of the sword is a contradiction in terms. Rishis of old are said to have performed penance for the sake of the cow. Let us follow in the footsteps of the Rishis, and ourselves do penance, so that we may be pure enough to protect the cow and all that the doctrine means and implies.

Central Fact
The central fact of Hinduism is cow-protection. Cow-protection to me is one of the most wonderful phenomena in human evolution. It takes the human being beyond his species. The cow to me means the entire sub-human world. Man, through the cow, is enjoined to realize his identity with all that lives.
Why the cow was selected for apotheosis is obvious to me. The cow was, in India, the best companion. She was the giver of the plenty. Not only did she give milk, but she also made agriculture possible. The cow is as poem of pity. One reads pity in the gentle animal. She is the mother to millions of Indian mankind.
Protection of the cow means protection of the whole dumb creation of God. The appeal of the lower order is all the more forcible because it is speechless. Cow –protection is the gift of Hinduism to the world. And Hinduism will live so long as there are Hindus to protect the cow. Hindus are enjoined to protect the cow by their tapasya, by self-purification, by self-sacrifice.
By every act of cruelty to our cattle, we disown God and Hinduism. Hindus will be judged not by their tilaks, not mean merely the Indian cow, but the cow all the world over. My religion teaches me that I should by my personal conduct instill into the minds of those who might hold different views, the conviction that cow-killing is a sin and that, therefore, it ought to be abandoned. My ambition is no less than to see the principle of cow-protection established throughout the world. But that requires that I should set my own house thoroughly in order first.
Cow-protection to me is infinitely more than mere protection of the cow. The cow is merely a type for all that lives. Cow-protection means protection of the weak, the helpless, the dump and the deaf. Man becomes then not the Lord and master of all creation but he is its servant. The cow to me is a sermon on pity. So far we are merely playing at cow-protection. But we shall soon have to grapple with reality.
There are serious ignorance about the place of the cow in Hinduism and in the economy of Indian life.
The purport (of a letter from a Muslim who describes himself as a sufi,) is that, in his opinion, there is nothing common between Hinduism and Islam and that the two cannot be as if they are one. For, he argues that ht Hinduism do not believe in high and low, whereas Islam is a brotherhood in which there is no hierarchy and which believes in one God as Allah. In this there is a caricature of Hinduism. There is no Hindu who puts animals, the cow and the goat, before man. But I submit that if anyone like me believes himself to be the lowest in God’s creation, there is nothing wrong. It is a sign of true humility.

Not by Violence
I believe myself to be an orthodox Hindu and it is my conviction that no one who scrupulously practices the Hindu religion may kill a cow-killer to protect the cow.
I would not a kill a human being for protection a cow, as I will not kill a cow for saving a human life, be it ever so precious.
The cow question is a big question, the greatest for a Hindu. I yield to no one in my regard for the cow. Hindus do not fulfill their trust so long as they do not possess the ability to protect the cow. That, ability can be derived either from body force or soul force. To attempt cow-protection by violence is to reduce Hinduism to Satanism and to prostitute to a base end the grand significance of cow-protection.
The Hindus must scrupulously refrain from using any violence against Musalmans. Suffering and trust are attributes of soul-force. I have heard that, at big fairs, if a Musalman is found in possession of cows or even goats, he is at times forcibly dispossessed. Those who, claiming to be Hindus, thus resort to violence, are enemies of the cow and of Hinduism.
I make bold to assert without fear of contradiction, that it is not Hinduism to kill a fellowman even to save the cow.
To nurse enmity against the Musalman, for the sake of saving the cow, is a sure way to kill the cow and is doubly sinful. Hinduism will not be destroyed by anon Hindu killing a cow. The Hindu’s religion consists in saving the cow, but it can never be his religion to save the cow by a resort to force towards a non-Hindu.
What profit would it be if I succeed in saving a few cows from death by using force against persons who do not regard cow-killing as sinful?
And if a Musalman thinks that he must slaughter the cow, why would a Hindu  stay his hands by force? Why should he not fall on banded knees before him and plead with him? But we will do no such thing. Well then, God will one day make the Musalmans and the Hindu do what we will not do today. If you are believers, I beseech you to retire into yourselves and pray to the Indweller to stay your hands from wrong and to make them do the right thing. Let that be our prayer every morning and evening. There is no other way.

Not by Law
There is nothing strange about all the Shikarpur Hindus having voted unanimously in favour of the prohibition of cow-slaughter. Is there is a Hindu who will not vote for it? The use of that unanimous opinion for bearing down Musalman opposition is the way to stiffen it. The Hindu members must have known, must have ascertained, Musalman feeling. And they should have refrained from going to a division, so long as Musalman opinion was against them.
The Musalman claim that Islam permits them to kill the cow. To make a Musalman, therefore, to abstain from cow-killing under compulsion, would amount in my opinion to converting him to Hinduism by force. Even in India under Swaraj, in my opinion, it would be unwise and improper for a Hindu majority to coerce by legislation a Musalman minority into submission to statutory prohibition of cow-slaughter.
Nevertheless, a large number of vocal Hindus have began to believe the superstition that the Union belongs to the Hindus and that, therefore, they should enforce their belief by law even among non-Hindus. Hence an emotional wave is sweeping the country, in order to secure legislation prohibiting the slaughter of cows within the union.
In this state, which I hold, is based on ignorance, claiming to be a knowing lover and devotee, second to none in India of the cow, I must try in the best manner I can do dispel the ignorance.
Rajendra Babu has told me that he has received about 50,000 post cards, 30,000 letters and thousands of telegrams asking for prohibition of cow-slaughter in the Union of India. A telegram was received today saying that a Pandit has undertaken a fast in Kanpur on that issue, Hindu religion prohibits cow-slaughter for the Hindus, not for the world. Religious prohibition comes from within. Any imposition from without means compulsion. Such compulsion is repugnant to religion. India is the land not only of the Hindus but also of the Muslims, the Sikhs, the Parsis, the Christians, the Jews and all who claim to be of India and are loyal to the Union. If they can prohibit cow-slaughter in India on religious grounds, why cannot the Pakistan Government prohibit, say, idol worship in Pakistan on similar grounds? I am not in temple goer, but if I am prohibited from going to a temple in Pakistan, I shall make it appoint to go there even at the risk of losing to a temple in Pakistan, I shall make it a point to go there even at the risk of losing my head. Just as Shariat cannot be imposed on the non-Hindus.
It is obviously wrong legally to enforce one’s religious practice on those who do not share that religion.
The complaint of one writer is why, when slaughter of pigs is prohibited in Pakistan, cow-slaughter cannot be prohibited in the Union? I have no knowledge of legal prohibition of the slaughter of pigs in Pakistan. If the information given by the complainant is true, I am sorry. I know that use of pork for good is prohibited in Islamic law. But even so. I cannot justify the prohibition of the use of pork by those other than Muslims.

By Conversion
The conversion of only one party is enough because the solution requires no bargains. For instance, the Hindus should cease to worry the Musalmans about the cow without expecting any consideration from the later. They should yield to the Musalman demand whatever it may be regarding representation, again without requiring any return. And if the Musalmans insist on stopping the Hindu music or arati by force, the Hindus will continue playing it although every single Hindu should die at his post without retaliation. The Musalmans will then be shamed into doing the right thing in an incredibly short space of time.
I have up to now confined myself to giving general advice. Maulana Hasrat Mohani told me that the Musalmans ought to protect the cow for the sake of Hindus, and Hindus should cease to regard the Musalmans as untouchables, as he said they are regarded the North India. I told him: I will not bargain with you in this matter. If the Musalmans think it their duty to protect the cow for the sake of Hindus, they may do so irrespective of how the Hindus behave towards them. I think it a sin for a Hindu to look upon a Musalman as an untouchable, and the Hindu ought not to do so, irrespective of a Musalman killing or sparing the cow. The Musalman ought to be no more untouchable to Hindu than a Hindu any of the four caste s is to one of the other. I regard these things as axiomatic. If Hinduism teaches hatred of Islam or of non-Hindus it is doomed to destruction. Each community should then put its house in order without bargaining with each other.
I am anxious to establish the best neighbourly relations with the Musalmans. I scrupulously avoid doing anything that might hurt their feelings. I even try to respect their prejudices. But I do this not in a spirit of bargain, I ask them for no reward. For that I look God only. My Gita tells me that evil can never result from a good action. Therefore, I must help the Musalmans from a pure sense of duty without making any terms with them. For more cows are killed today for the sake of Englishmen in India than for Musalmans. I want to convert the former also. I would like to convince them that, whilst they are in our midst, their duty lies in getting rid of their Western culture to the extent that it comes in conflict with ours.

Voluntary Self-denial by Muslims
Professor Vaswani has unfurled the banner of the cow’s freedom. The danger has come sooner than I had expected. I had hoped that it would come when India could regard it with equanimity. In my humble opinion, Professor Vaswani might have started the movement under better auspices. Any movement started by Hindus for protecting the cow, without whole-hearted  Musalman co-operation, is doomed to failure.
It must be an article of faith for every Hindu that the cow can only be saved by Musalman friendship. Let us recognize frankly that complete protection of the cow depends purely upon Musalman good will. It is as impossible to bend the Musalmans to our will as it would be for them to bend us to theirs. We are evolving the doctrine of equal free partnership. We are fighting Dyerism the doctrine of frightfulness.
The only effective and honourable way is to befriend the Musalmans and leave it to their honour to save the cow.
It would rebound to the credit of Hinduism, if stopping of cow-slaughter was brought about not by force, but as a deliberate voluntary act of self denial on the part of Musalmans and others. I would therefore, deem it unpatriotic even to nurse a dream of Hindu Raj.
I know what would spare the Hindu’s voluntary stoppage of cow-slaughter by Musalmans whether for sacrifice or for food. The Hindu dharma will not be satisfied if some tyrant secured by force of arms immunity of the cow from the slaughter. Islam in India cannot make a better gift to the Hindus than this voluntary self-denial. And I know enough of Islam to be able to assert that Islam does not compel cow-slaughter and it does compel its followers to spare and respect to the full the feelings of their neighbours whenever it is humanly possible.