Not only eating beef but simply being suspected of doing so can get you killed in India. The reason for this? Under modern Hindu belief the cow is a sacred animal. Interestingly, it seems that this may not have always been the case and that Hindus ate cow meat in their ancient past. Today, because cows are associated with a specific goddess called Aditi the mother of all the gods, cows are widely revered and allowed to wander freely in populated areas.
Those that consume cow meat as part of their diet are those belonging to minority groups such as Christians, Muslims, tribal groups, and the Dalit (untouchables). Ironically, the beef is cheaper than other meats and so it is important to low-income diets. These groups have been abused because of their eating habits and have been targets of violence for many years. Back in February, 53 people were killed in the violent riots that broke out between Hindus and Muslims in Delhi. Parts of the city were burned while Hindu mobs sought out Muslims to beat and kill. Police often either stood by and watched or actively participated in the violence. Some of these instances were even caught on video and later went viral. The Hindu-nationalist government was slow to react to the situation and bring an end to the violence.
Although the global pandemic caused by the spread of COVID-19 has been in the forefront of everyone’s minds and occupying the attention of governments and media everywhere, the violence in India continues. On August 2, a video went viral in which a young man was dragged off and beaten with a hammer in front of a crowd on the suspicion of transporting beef. Typical of these kinds of cases, a cop can be seen in the video standing near the victim but doing nothing. Lynching of members of minority groups in India is fairly common but few cases are investigated or prosecuted.
Religious violence has increased greatly under Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his BJP government. Mr. Modi’s government associates nationalist identity with being Hindu. This idea fuels policy decisions that increase the power and spread of Hinduism while often specifically targeting minorities in the country. His party’s special aim seems to be the Muslim populace. In one such move, he revoked the statehood of predominately Muslim Jammu and Kashmir. The region had enjoyed special autonomy as a state for over 60 years. He also instituted new laws that benefited all immigrant groups in the country except Muslims who were singularly excluded.
The ruling party of India, the BJP, has actively promoted the ideology of “Hindutva” or hindu-ness, which defines Indian identity in terms of hinduism. Some members even belong to Hindutva extremist groups who have blatantly espoused their desire to “see all non-Hindus expelled, killed, or converted to Hinduism.”
A report by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom released in June, recommended that India be classified as a “Country of Particular Concern” and even suggested the implementation of sanctions against some government agencies. As these sorts of practices continue, nations such as India will continue oppressing and even threatening minority groups. Already in South Korea, religious minority groups, such as Shincheonji, are in danger for their alleged belief in the Korean Jesus and other false assumptions about their faith. Their livelihood and even their lives are in danger merely due to the religion they practice. Much like India, the persecution of minority groups must come to an end, all across the globe.