Assam By polls: How Cow Is A Constant Cool In Politics
The historic Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 in British-India was partly fueled by rumours of cow grease being used on cartridges that had to be bitten off by Indian sepoys to be opened (there were also rumors about pork fat used on cartridges that frightened Muslims).
But it’s not only during the British raj alone, cows have for long held the collective imagination of Indian politics.
Whether India was grappling with the Covid-19 outbreak, economic slowdown, or national security crisis on the border, the political value of the cow never really disappeared from public debate last year.
In Assam also, cow has been the centre stage of recent politics. Barely three months after the BJP led coalition was reelected in Assam, the state government moved the Assam Cattle Preservation Bill 2021 to protect cows, a sacred animal for most Hindus.
On July 12, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma introduced the Bill to replace the Assam Cattle Preservation Act 1950, claiming that the older legislation does not have sufficient safeguards to regulate slaughter, consumption and illegal transportation of cattle. The Bill was passed on August 13, the last day of the Budget session.
The new legislation prohibits the sale and purchase of beef in areas inhabited by non-beef eating communities and within a 5-km radius of a temple or a satra (as Vaishnavite monasteries are called). The legislation further specifies a ban on interstate transport of cattle to and from Assam, without valid documents, supposedly to curtail smuggling of cattle to neighbouring Bangladesh.
But that’s not enough. As the state now eyes at a by-poll in five of its constituencies of Gossaigaon, Bhabanipur, Tamulpur, Mariani and Thowra- chief minister Sarma has taken the ‘cow politics’ to a different level.
In most of the election campaign programs of the CM, Sarma was seen trying to woo voters by comparing BJP with a cow that gives milk and the rest of the Opposition parties with male cows.
“Since it’s BJP government in Centre and state, only electing BJP and its ally candidates can yield fruitful results for the people of the constituencies. Because BJP is like a cow that will give milk to them and benefit them. No matter how much one milks the Opposition parties, they can’t give milk. They can only fool the voters,” Sarma said.
Assam will go to polls on October 30.