My dear Pranav,
In 1970, Vinoba finally settled down at Pavnar. He stopped his
Padyatra and started withdrawing himself from active campaigns. His
views were always sought by politicians. After the land redistribution,
he took up the cause of Goraksha (Cow Protection).
"The cow is a poem of pity" said Gandhiji. The cow occupies a very
important place in the religious beliefs of Hindus. Hindus worship
the cow as a symbol of God. Vinoba said that Indian socialism does
not stop with equality between human beings but extends to all
living beings. The cow is a symbol of all non-human beings. Feelings
of equality and faternity which were preached by all other religions
were limited to human beings. In Vinoba's view, it was a speciality
of Hinduism that it included in its compassion the cow as a symbol
of other life forms. Hindus worship trees, serpents and cows and
other manifestations of life. Ethically, this is a superior position.
Vinoba used to say that beginning with cannibalism man progressed
towards vegetarianism in stages, and Ahimsa became a higher value
system. Many communities and regions in India became vegetarian. This
aspect of Indian life was very dear to vinoba.
To talk about cow protection is
considered amongst educated Indians as something old, backward and
anti-quatedly religious. Vinoba looked at cow-slaughter both as an
ethical and an economic menace. He was not a ritualistically
religious person. He believed in God, he believed in prayers, but
there were no other rituals, no idol worship in his daily life. He
was basically a Vedantist. He attached great importance to the cow
as a symbol of human compassion for fellow life forms. He used to
say that his socialism extended to cows and did not allow him to
exploit and kill them.
Being basically turned to village India, Vinoba knew the
importance of the cows in village economy. If you give land to a
landless person, but if he has no bullocks, what can he cultivate?
Cows provide milk, manure and traction power in the form of bullocks.
A recent study by the Indian Institute of Management at Bangalore
has estimated that the energy generated for traction by bullocks in
India is equivalent to the energy generated by all other means put
together; oil, hydro, nuclear etc. That is the importance of the cow
as a giver of Food, and a renewable source of traction power. It is
often the only asset a poor man has in India.
Poor farmers cannot resist the
temptations of market forces. They sell their cows for slaughtering.
In other words, they sell their renewable source of an energy
generating asset. The land becomes meaningless without bullocks. The
only choice for a poor villager is to become a landless labourer
dependent on others, or migrate to city slums. Vinoba could not
accept this. He, therefore, started a campaign for Goraksha (Cow
Realistically speaking, it need not
have been necessary to organise a campaign. Cow protection in
enshrined in the Constitution of India as a Directive Principle. The
Supreme Court has given a judgement that Anti-cow-slaughter laws
passed by some states are constitutionally valid. Many States have
passed such laws. Beef does not have much market in India, as it is
not acceptable to Hindus. Still, very large scale cow-slaughter goes
on catering to export markets. Vinoba was pained by all this as a
Bhoomiputra, who found it difficult to see that the means of
livelihood was snatched away by market forces from the poor villagers,
and the Government stood inactive. More in my next letter.