Excerpts from the debate on cow protection that took place on November 24, 1948 in the Constituent Assembly, with its Vice-President Dr HC Mookherjee in chair, were carried in the last issue of Policy Pulse. We conclude this series in this issue by reproducing relevant excerpts of the subsequent deliberations, including the reply made by two Muslim members who did not oppose the amendment moved mainly by Pandit Thakur Das Bhargava but sought only to make provisions in the Constitution in this regard unambiguous so as to ward off any communal discord in future. We leave it upon readers to judge as to how far such a wish of the framers of Constitution is being respected by the political class today
Pandit Thakur Das Bhargava, member from East Punjab, continues: Leaving it aside, I want to draw your attention to the speech of our President, Dr. Rajendra Prasad. After this the Government of India, appointed a committee - an expert representative committee-to find out whether for the benefit of the country the number of cattle can be increased, and whether their slaughter can be stopped. The Committee has unanimously decided in its favour. Seth Govind Das was also a member of the committee. The committee unanimously decided that cattle slaughter should be banned. Great minds were associated with the said committee. They examined the question from the economic view-point; they gave thought to the unproductive and unserviceable cattle also. After viewing the problem from all angles they came to the unanimous decision that slaughter of cattle should be stopped. That resolution relates not to cows alone. Slaughtering of buffaloes, which yield 50 percent of our milk supply, and of the goats which yield three percent of our milk supply, and also bring a profit of several crores, is as sinful as that of cows. In my district of Hariana, a goat yields 3 to 4 seers of milk. Perhaps a cow does not yield that much in other areas. Therefore, I submit that we should consider it from an economic point of view. I also want to state that many of the cattle, which are generally regarded as useless, are not really so. Experts have made an estimate of that, and they came to the conclusion that the cattle which are regarded as useless are not really so, because we are in great need of manure. A cow, whether it be a milch-cow or not, is a moving manure factory and so, as far as cow is concerned, there can be no question of its being useless or useful. It can never be useless. In the case of cow there can be no dispute on the point.]*(Hearing the bell being rung.) Am I to stop?
Mr. Vice President: Yes, I am asking you to stop.
Pandit Thakur DassBhargava: Could you give me two minutes more?
Mr. Vice-President: You have already had 25 minutes.
Pandit Thakur DassBhargava:*[As the Vice-President has ordered me to finish off, I shall not go into the details; otherwise I can prove by figures that the value of the refuse and urine of a cow is greater than the cost of her maintenance. In the end, I would wind up by saying that there might be people, who regard the question of banning cow-slaughter as unimportant, but I would like to remind them that the average age in our country is 23 years, and that many children die under one year of age! The real cause of all this is shortage of milk and deficiency in diet. Its remedy lies in improving the breed of the cow, and by stopping its slaughter. I attach very great importance to this amendment, so much so that if on one side of the scale you were to put this amendment and on the other all these 315 clauses of the draft, I would prefer the former. If this is accepted, the whole country would be, in a way, electrified. Therefore, I request you to accept this amendment unanimously with acclamation.]*
Seth Govind Das:*[Mr. President, the amendment moved by Pandit Thakurdas Bhargava appears to be rather inadequate as a directive in its present form. I therefore move my amendment to his amendment. My amendment runs thus:
"That in amendment No. 1002 of the list of Amendments in article 38-A the words and other useful cattle, specially milch cattle and of child bearing age, young stocks and draught cattle' be deleted and the following be added at the end:
'The word "cow' includes bulls, bullocks, young stock of genus cow'."
The object of the amendment is, I hope, quite clear from its words. The amendment moved by Pandit Bhargava prohibits the slaughter of cow and other useful cattle but according to it unfit or useless cows may be slaughtered. But the object of my amendment is, as far as cows are concerned, to prohibit the slaughter of any cow, be it useful or useless and in my amendment word 'cow' includes bulls, bullocks and calves all that are born of cows. As Pandit Thakur Das told you, I had submitted this earlier to be included in Fundamental Rights but I regret that it could not be so included. The reason given is that Fundamental Rights deal only with human beings and not animals. I had then stated that just as the practice of untouchability was going to be declared an offence so also we should declare the slaughter of cows to be an offence. But it was said that while untouchability directly affected human beings the slaughter of cows affected the life of animals only - and that as the Fundamental Rights were for human beings this provision could not be included therein. Well, I did not protest against that view and thought it proper to include this provision in the Directive Principles. It will not be improper, Sir, if I mention here, that it is not for the first time that I am raising the question of cow protection. I have been a member of the Central Legislature for the last twenty-five years and I have always raised this question in the Assembly and in the Council of State. The protection of cow is a question of long standing in this country. Great importance has been attached to this question from the time of Lord Krishna. I belong to a family which worships Lord Krishna as "Ishtadev". I consider myself a religious minded person, and have no respect for those people of the present day society whose attitude towards religion and religious minded people is one of contempt. It is my firm belief that Dharma had never been uprooted from the world and nor can it be uprooted. There had been unbelievers like Charvaka in our country also but the creed of Charvaka could never flourish in this country. Now-a-days the Communist leaders of the West also and I may name among them Karl Marx, Lenin, Stalin, declare religion "the opium of the People". Russia recognised neither religion nor God but we have seen that in the last war the Russian people offered prayers to God in Churches to grant them victory. Thus it is plain from the history of ancient times as also from that of God-denying Russia that religion could not be uprooted.
Moreover, cow protection is not only a matter of religion with us; it is also a cultural and economic question. Culture is a gift of History. India is an ancient country; consequently no new culture can be imposed on it. Whosoever attempts to do so is bound to fail; he can never succeed. Ours is a culture that has gradually developed with our long history. Swaraj will have no meaning for our people in the absence of a culture. Great important cultural issues - for instance the question of the name of the country, question of National Language, question of National Script, question of the National Anthem and question of the prohibition of cow slaughter - are before this Assembly and unless the Constituent Assembly decides these questions according to the wishes of the people of the country, Swarajya will have no meaning to the common people of our country. I would like to submit, Sir, that a referendum betaken on these issues and the opinion of the people be ascertained. Again, cow protection is also a matter of great economic importance for us. Pandit Thakur Das Bhargava has shown to you by quoting statistic show the cattle wealth of the country is diminishing. This country is predominantly agricultural in character. I would give some figures here regarding the position of our cattle wealth. In 1935 there were one hundred nineteen million and four hundred ninety one thousand (11,94,91,000) heads of cattle. In 1940 their number came down to one hundred fifteen million and six hundred ten thousand, and in 1945 it further came down to one hundred eleven million and nine hundred thousand. While on one side our population is increasing our cattle wealth is decreasing. Our Government is carrying on a Grow More Food Campaign. Millions of rupees are being spent on this campaign. This campaign cannot succeed so long as we do not preserve the cows. Pandit Thakur Das has given us some figures to show the number of cows slaughtered in our country. I would like to quote here some figures from the Hide and Skin Report of the Government of India. Fifty-two lakhs of cows and thirteen lakhs of buffaloes are slaughtered every year in this country. It shows in what amazing numbers cattle are slaughtered here. Thirty six crores acres of land are under cultivation here. These figures also include the land under cultivation in Pakistan. I have to give these figures because we have no figure of the land under cultivation in India since the secession of Pakistan from our country. We have six crores bullocks for the cultivation of the land. A scientific estimate would show that we need another one and a half crore of bullocks to keep this land under proper cultivation.
So far as the question of milk supply is concerned I would like to place before you figures of milk supply of other countries as compared to that of our country.
In New Zealand milk supply per capita is 56 ounces, in Denmark 40, in Finland 63, in Sweden 61, in Australia 45, in Canada 35, in Switzerland 49, in Netherland 35, in Norway 43, in U.S.A. 35, in Czechoslovakia 36, in Belgium 35, in Australia 30, in Germany 35, in France 30, in Poland 22, in Great Britain 39 and in India it is only 7 ounces. Just think what will be the state of health of the people of a country where they get only seven ounces of milk per head. There is a huge infantile mortality in this country. Children are dying like dogs and cats. How can they be saved without milk?
Thus even if we look at this problem from the economic point of view, we come to the conclusion that for the supply of milk and agriculture also, the protection of the cow is necessary.
I would like to place before the House one thing more. It has been proved by experience that whatever laws we may frame for the prevention of the slaughter of useful cattle, their object is not achieved. In every province there are such laws. There people slaughter cattle and pay some amount towards fines and sometimes escape even that. Thus our cattle wealth is declining day by day.
Sometime back there was a law like that in Burma but when they saw that cattle could not be saved under it, they banned cow slaughter altogether.
I would like to emphasise one point to my Muslim friends also. I would like to see my country culturally unified even though we may follow different religions. Just as a Hindu and a Sikh or a Hindu and a Jain can live in the same family, in the same way a Hindu and a Muslim can also live in the same family. The Muslims should come forward to make it clear that their religion does not compulsorily enjoin on them the slaughter of the cow. I have studied a little all the religions. I have read the life of Prophet Mohammad Sahib. The Prophet never took beef in his life. This is an historic fact.
Pandit Thakur Das Bhargava pointed out just now that from the time of Akbar to that of Aurangzeb, there was a ban on cow slaughter. I want to tell you what Babar, the first Moghul Emperor told Humayun. He said: "Refrain from cow-slaughter to win the hearts of the people of Hindustan."
Pandit Thakur Dass Bhargava just now referred to the Committee constituted by the Government of India for this purpose. It recommended that cow slaughter should be totally banned. I admit that the Government will require money for the purpose. I want to assure you that there will be no lack of money for this purpose. If the allowance given to cattle-pounds and Goshalas is realised from the people by law, all the money needed would be realised. Even if the Government want to impose a new tax for this purpose every citizen of this country will be too glad to pay it. Therefore, our Government should not raise before us the financial bogey so often raised by the British Government. I have travelled a little in this country and I am acquainted with the views of the people.]* (At this point other members take over from Seth Govind Das as the Vice-President of the Assembly Dr HC Mookherjee asks Das to allow others to speak. Following intervention by members Shibban Lal Saxena two Muslim members of the Assembly take over)
Mr. Z. H. Lari(United Provinces: Muslim): Mr. Vice-President, I appreciate the sentiments of those who want protection of the cow - may be on religious grounds or maybe in the interests of agriculture in this country. I have come here not to oppose or support any of the amendments but to request the House to make the position quite clear and not to leave the matter in any ambiguity or doubt. The House, at the same time, must appreciate that Mussalmans of India have been, and are, under the impression that they can, without violence to the principles which govern the State, sacrifice cows and other animals on the occasion of Bakrid. It is for the majority to decide one way or the other. We are not here to obstruct the attitude that the majority community is going to adopt. But let there not linger an idea in the mind of the Muslim public that they can do one thing, though in fact they are not expected to do that. The result has been, as I know in my own Province on the occasion of the last Bakrid, so many orders under Section 144 in various places, districts and cities. The consequence has been the arrests of many, molestation of even more, and imprisonment of some. Therefore, if the House is of the opinion that slaughter of cows should be prohibited, let it be prohibited in clear, definite and unambiguous words. I do not want that there should be a show that you could have this thing although the intention may be otherwise. My own submission to this House is that it is better to come forward and incorporate a clause in Fundamental Rights that cow slaughter is henceforth prohibited, rather than it being left vague in the Directive Principles, leaving it open to Provincial Governments to adopt it one way or the other, and even without adopting definite legislation to resort to emergency powers under the Criminal Procedure. In the interests of good-will in the country and of cordial relations between the different communities I submit that this is the proper occasion when the majority should express itself clearly and definitely.
I for one can say that this is a matter on which we will not stand in the way of the majority if the majority wants to proceed in a certain way, whatever may be our inclinations. We feel - we know that our religion does not necessarily say that you must sacrifice cow: it permits it. The question is whether, considering the sentiments that you have, considering the regard which the majority have for certain classes of animals, do they or do they not permit the minority - not a right - but a privilege or a permission which it at present has? I cannot put it higher. I won't class it as interference with my religion. But I do not want that my liberty should be taken away, and especially the peaceful celebration of any festival should be marred by the promulgation of orders under Section 144. I have come only to plead that. Therefore, let the leaders of the majority community here and now make it clear and not leave it to the back-benchers to come forward and deliver sermons one way or the other. Let those who guide the destinies of the country, make or mar them, say definitely "this is our view", and we will submit to it. We are not going to violate it. This is the only thing I have come to say. I hope you will not misunderstand me when I say this. It is not due to anger, malice or resentment but it is out of regard for cordial relations between the communities, and what is more, due to the necessity of having a clear mind that I say this. Henceforward the Muslim minority must know where they stand so that they may act accordingly, and there be no occasion for any misunderstanding between the majority and the Muslims on this point.
In view of what I have said, I would not oppose nor support any of the amendments, but I would invite a very clear and definite rule instead of the vague phraseology of the clauses which have been put forward. It proceeds to say that we should have modern and scientific agriculture. Modern and scientific agriculture will mean mechanisation and so many other things. The preceding portion of the clause speaking about modern and scientific agriculture and the subsequent portion banning slaughter of cattle do not fit in with each other. I appreciate the sentiments of another member who said "this is our sentiment, and it is out of that sentiment that we want this article". Let that article be there, but for God's sake, postpone the discussion of the article and bring it in clear, definite and unambiguous terms so that we may know where we stand and thereafter there should be no occasion for any misunderstanding between the two communities on this issue which does not affect religion but affects practices which obtain in the country.
Syed Muhammad Saiadulla (Assam: Muslim): Mr. Vice-President, Sir, the subject of debate before the House now has two fronts, the religious front and the economic front. Some who want to have a section in our Constitution that cow killing should be stopped for all time probably base it on the religious front. I have every sympathy and appreciation for their feelings; for, I am student of comparative religions. I know that the vast majority of the Hindu nation revere the cow as their goddess and therefore they cannot brook the idea of seeing it slaughtered. I am a Muslim as everyone knows. In my religious book, the Holy Qoran, there is an injunction to the Muslims saying -
La Ikraba fid Din", or
or, there ought to be no compulsion in the name of religion. I therefore do not like to use my veto when my Hindu brethren want to place this matter in our Constitution from the religious point of view. I do not also want to obstruct the framers of our Constitution, I mean the Constituent Assembly if they come out in the open and say directly: "This is part of our religion. The cow should be protected from slaughter and therefore we want its provision either in the Fundamental Rights or in the Directive Principles."
But, those who put it on the economic front, as the honourable Member who spoke before me said, do create a suspicion in the minds of many that the ingrained Hindu feeling against cow slaughter is being satisfied by the backdoor. If you put it on the economic front, I will place before you certain facts and figures which will show that the slaughter of cows is not as bad as it is sought to be made out from the economic point of view. I have very vast and varied experience of the province of Assam and therefore I will quote you figures from Assam only. In the year 1931, under the orders of the then Central Government a census of the cattle wealth of the province was undertaken. We found that in 1931, Assam had 70 lakhs of cattle as against a human population of 90 lakhs. It will stagger my friends from the other parts of India when I place before them the fact that the average yield of an Assam cow is but a quarter seer of milk daily and that it is so puny in stature that its draught power is practically nil. Assam is dependent for her draught cattle on the province of Bihar. During the last war, when there was tremendous difficulty as regards transport, we could not get any cattle from Bihar, with the result that we were compelled to use our own small cattle for the purpose of ploughing. In order to conserve this cattle, the Government of Assam passed a law prohibiting the slaughter of cattle in milch or cattle which could be used for the purpose of draught. But, wonder of wonders, I personally found that droves of cattle were being taken to the military depots for being slaughtered not by Muslims, but by Hindus who had big "sikhas" on their heads. When I saw this during my tours I asked those persons why, in spite of their religion and in spite of Government orders, they were taking the cattle to be slaughtered. They said: "Sir, these are all unserviceable cattle. They are all dead-weight on our economy. We want to get ready cash in exchange for them".
My friend Seth Govind Das mentioned the case of cattle that were killed. I questioned him privately. The figures in the Hides and Skins Report are from the hides. I know there is a community amongst Hindus themselves who go by the name of `Rishis' in our part of the country whose sole occupation in life is to take away the skin from dead cattle. They have got absolutely no objection even to flay the skin of slaughtered cattle. The figures given by Seth Govind Das include the numbers of both the dead and slaughtered cattle. Similarly the figures given by Pandit Bhargava are not the figures of cattle slaughtered during normal times. They were, as Honourable Members know, war years and, on account of the fact that the Japanese had invaded India through Assam, Assam alone had to accommodate about 5 lakhs of fighting men and an equal number of camp followers. Cattle from all parts of India were then taken to Assam to feed these ten lakhs of people from America and elsewhere, whites as well as blacks. Even the Chinese soldiers were there in Assam, not to speak of soldiers from every part of India. Therefore, those were abnormal years and you cannot base you arguments on the figures of the years 1945 and 1946. (The debate continues after this point with Pandit Thakur Das Bhargava taking over)