Moodindigo: Cowards!

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By converting the cow into a mere political animal that can be slaughtered to prove a point, the Congress has showed the world what it stands for

The barbaric slaughter in public of an 18-month-old calf by Youth Congress leaders in Kannur, Kerala, has exposed the distance the Congress has travelled from the ideological moorings of Mahatma Gandhi. Since prime minister Narendra Modi assumed power at the Centre in May 2014, there has often been protests and commentary on how the BJP is appropriating “Congress” leaders, like Sardar Vallabhai Patel and others. However, it is important to change this lens and view these leaders from the prism of history and not presentism that has our greats from the freedom struggle packaged into neat boxes. It is arguable if these leaders (whose thoughts are well documented) would connect with the political party Congress and what it stands for today.

Back in the day, the Congress was an umbrella movement that included people from across the ideological spectrum, united in the fight for independence. They set aside their differences and under the stewardship of Mahatma Gandhi joined in the struggle to achieve India’s freedom. They were not alone in this fight for freedom, others organised themselves differently and worked towards that goal as well. However, respect for Gandhi was all encompassing. A higher purpose overrode all other concerns. Gandhi wanted the Congress disbanded post-independence, stating that “Though split into two, India having attained political independence through means devised by the Indian National Congress, the Congress in its present shape and form, i.e., as a propaganda vehicle and parliamentary machine had outlived its use” (The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Volume 90).

However as it turned out, the Congress post-independence did not heed his advice, going on to adopt a political avatar which increasingly developed an identity distinct from its pre-independence one. In the present day, it is associated with the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, more than with anyone else, or as many would say only with them. It is hence difficult to imagine that post-independence Congress which was a party comprised of equals and freedom struggle stalwarts, like Patel who had greater control over the party than the first prime minister Nehru would approve or endorse this makeover of the party as one tied to a single family.

However, as a political party that has undergone its splits and veered towards Indira Gandhi and her descendants, it has the right to draw from its ideological source. But to present itself as the inheritor of Gandhi’s legacy has been decisively eroded by the barbaric public butchering of a calf in Kannur. This incident would have horrified the Mahatma.

Although it has been condemned by Rahul Gandhi (as was expected) — this one act underpins what ails the Congress, it’s lack of ideological cohesion and direction. And that should be of grave concern for a party that is in the midst of an existential crisis. This isn’t about the political heckling of “Congress Mukt Bharat”, but it is about much-needed introspection on what it stands for, that is a party that identifies itself more with the Nehru-Gandhi family than Mahatma Gandhi. This is evident to the public, it must now be clear to the party as it moves ahead. For no party who believed in his ideals would have ever carried out the slaughter of a cow. And then presented a brazen (and blind) defence as did the ex-chief minister of Kerala — Oommen Chandy who said that the Congress is not dented by the cow slaughter.

Gandhi’s opinion on cow slaughter is well documented, he was not in support of any coercive tactics but believed and to quote him, “My religion teaches me that I should by 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” (Young India, Page 38, 1925). He is unambiguous in his stance and the means that were to be adopted.

By converting the cow into a mere political animal that can be slaughtered and mangled to prove a point, the Congress has plumbed what could have been a legitimate rights and personal freedoms debate into the depths of inconsequence. All over the country, the video of this slaughter is doing the rounds. There have been numerous attempts to cut India off from its cultural identity in the name of progress but to quote the Mahatma again, “The cow is a poem of pity”, and it remains so to this day. The response to the appalling video of the slaughter by youth Congress workers is evidence of that.

(Advaita Kala is a screenwriter and a columnist)

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