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Negotiating the ‘Sacred’ Cow: Cow Slaughter and the Regulation of Difference in India

  • Shraddha Chigateri
Chapter
Part of the Studies in Global Justice book series (JUST, volume 7)

Abstract

Cow slaughter and the consumption of beef are highly volatile, emotive and politicised subjects in India. At the heart of the debates on cow slaughter and the consumption of beef in India is the avowed sacredness of the cow in dominant-caste Hindu India. In an apparent paradox, however, ‘bovine’ meat, according to statistics published by the Food and Agricultural Organisation, is the most highly produced and consumed meat product in the country (FAO 2005). Even so, it is the dominant-caste Hindu ethic against cow slaughter that finds legal expression in the prohibitions and restrictions on the slaughter of cows across several states of the country. Whilst the cow is not granted ‘constitutional immunity’ from slaughter (Baxi 1967: 347), cow slaughter is the subject of legal prohibitions and restrictions in several states in India all of which derive from Article 48 of the Constitution. In this paper, I am interested in mapping out the ways in which the juridical discourse on cow slaughter has engaged with the ‘religious’ bases for the prohibitions and restrictions on cow slaughter. In order to do this, I examine and analyse both the Constituent Assembly debates on Article 48, as well as the significant body of Supreme Court case law on the regulation of cow slaughter challenging the constitutional validity of Article 48 on ‘religious’ and ‘other’ grounds. By situating the debates on cow slaughter in the context of debates on secularism, and specifically constitutional secularism in India, I argue that the regulations on cow slaughter proceed on a fundamental constitutive elision of the religious aspects of cow slaughter, which in fact reiterate and legitimise a dominant caste Hindu ethic against cow slaughter.

Keywords

Communal Violence Religious Difference Agrarian Economy Young Stock Equal Respect 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of WarwickCoventryUK
  2. 2.University of KeeleStaffordshireUK

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