অন হিন্দুইজ়ম - ওয়েন্ডি ডনিগার

Monday, July 17, 2017


বইটিতে অনেক প্রসঙ্গ আছে যা আপাতদৃষ্টিতে মনে হতে পারে বহুলচর্চিত, কিন্তু তারই মধ্যে একটি দৃষ্টিকোণ রয়েছে যা মৌলিক। যেমন ‘sacred cow’ সংক্রান্ত প্রবন্ধটি। বর্তমান হিন্দুদের গোমাংস অভক্ষ্য। কিন্তু গরু মোটেই দেবতাস্থানীয় নয়। এদেশে হনুমান, বাঘ প্রভৃতির মন্দির আছে। খোদ দিল্লিতে আছে কুকুরের মন্দির, যেখানে ভৈরবরূপে শিবের অধিষ্ঠান। অবাক ব্যাপার, প্রচলিত রীতি অনুযায়ী সারমেয়-দেবতার প্রসাদ হচ্ছে পকেটে গোঁজা যায় এমন সাইজ়ের ছোট এক বোতল রাম (ব্ল্যাক ডগ নামে মহার্ঘ স্কচ হুইস্কি নয়)। কিন্তু গোহত্যা নিষিদ্ধ হলেও গাভী মোটেই দেবী নয়। তার কারণ কী? কারণ, বহুকাল পর্যন্ত হিন্দুদের কাছে এই চতুষ্পদ জীবটির মাংস এমনই লোভনীয় খাদ্য ছিল যে, তা দিয়ে বিশিষ্ট অতিথির আপ্যায়ন ছিল রেওয়াজ।

এই তথ্যের একাধিক প্রমাণের সঙ্গে ডনিগার হাজির করেছেন বৈয়াকরণ পাণিনির (খ্রিস্টপূর্ব ষোড়শ বা পঞ্চম শতাব্দি) ব্যবহৃত একটি শব্দের সূত্র বিশ্লেষণ। শব্দটি ‘গোঘ্ন’। অর্থ, এমন এক ব্যক্তি, যার অভ্যর্থনার খাতিরে গাভী (বা ষাঁড়) হত্যা সঙ্গত। খ্রিস্টপূর্ব তৃতীয় শতাব্দির এক ধর্মসূত্রে বিবৃত হয়েছে, ‘দুগ্ধবতী গাভী ও বলদের মাংস ভক্ষণীয়, তাছাড়া ষাঁড়ের মাংস যজ্ঞোত্‌সর্গের জন্য আদর্শ’ (আপস্তম্ব ধর্মসূত্র, ১.১৭.৩০.৩১)। রোমিলা থাপারের ‘আর্লি ইন্ডিয়া’ বইয়ে উল্লিখিত হয়েছে প্রত্নতাত্ত্বিক খননের এমন নানাবিধ নিদর্শন, যা গোহত্যা সম্পর্কে সামাজিক স্বীকৃতির পরিচয়বাহক।

ডনিগারের মত অনুযায়ী, কৃষি অর্থনীতিতে গোজাতির উপযোগিতাই যে গোমাংস সম্পর্কে ‘taboo’-র সৃষ্টিকর্তা, তা সম্ভবত ঠিক নয়। তাঁর মতে, খ্রিস্টপূর্ব ষষ্ঠ শতক থেকে জৈনধর্ম ও বৌদ্ধধর্ম হিংসা, বিশেষ করে প্রাণীহত্যা, সম্পর্কে ব্যাপক জনমত তৈরি করছিল। সেই তোড়েই ভারতের গো-সমাজ পেল কসাইখানা থেকে অব্যাহতি। আধুনিক ভারতেও রাজনৈতিক নেতারা অহিংসা নীতিতে বিশ্বাসী হয়ে পড়েন (তবে নেতাজি সুভাষচন্দ্র নয়)। মহাত্মা গাঁধী অহিংসার এক নিদর্শন হিসেবে উপস্থিত করেন ‘বাত্‌সল্য’, ডনিগার দুষ্টুমি করে যার অনুবাদ করেছেন ‘calf love’। গাঁধী চেয়েছিলেন হিন্দু-মুসলমান নির্বিশেষে সকল ভারতীয়ই যেন গোহত্যা থেকে বিরত থাকে। লেখিকার মতে, এটি এক বিশেষ কারণ যার জন্য মুসলমানেরা গাঁধীকে বর্জন করে। তবে গোহত্যার সবচেয়ে বেশি রাজনীতিকরণ হয়েছে স্বাধীন ভারতে। ২০০১ সালে দ্বিজেন্দ্রনারায়ণ ঝা নামের এক অধ্যাপক ‘দ্য মিথ অফ দ্য হোলি কাউ’ নামে একটি বই লেখেন। তখনকার অটলবিহারী বাজপেয়ী সরকারের ঘনিষ্ঠ বলে পরিচিত হিন্দুত্ববাদীদের চাপে প্রকাশক বইটি উধাও করে দেন। অধ্যাপক ঝা-র কাছে ঘনঘন আসতে থাকে সতর্কবাণী। অথচ বইটিতে একটি কথাও নেই যা ঐতিহাসিক সত্য নয়।

সূত্রঃ
মৌলিক দৃষ্টিকোণে হিন্দুত্ববাদ
সুমিত মিত্র

পাঠকদের পড়ার জন্য ডনিগারের "SACRED COWS AND BEEFEATERS" প্রবন্ধটি এখানে পরিবেশন করলাম।

SACRED COWS AND BEEFEATERS

SACRED COWS

T
he belief that the Hindus have sacred cows is attested in no less an authority than the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), which defines the term as, primarily, designating ‘The cow as an object of veneration amongst Hindus’, and cites an 1891 reference from Rudyard Kipling’s father, already in the context of Hindu-Muslim conflict: ‘The Muhammedan … creed is in opposition to theirs [sc. the Hindus] and there are rankling memories of a thousand insults to it wrought on the sacred cow.’ But the term soon became globalized as a metaphor, indeed a backhanded anti-Hindu ethnic slur. In US journalism the word came to mean ‘someone who must not be criticized’, and in American literature, ‘An idea, institution, etc., unreasonably held to be immune from questioning or criticism,’ a sense in which Margaret Mitchell used it in 1936 in Gone with the Wind: ‘I think of my brother, living among the sacred cows of Charleston, and most reverent towards them.’
The idea of a ‘sacred cow’ is an ‘Irish bull’ (the old British chauvinist term for an oxymoron), which the OED defines as ‘A self-contradictory proposition; in mod. use, an expression containing a manifest contradiction in terms or involving a ludicrous inconsistency unperceived by the speaker. Now often with epithet Irish; but the word had been long in use before it came to be associated with Irishmen.’ The word ‘sacred’ is in any case a Christian term that can be, at best, vaguely and inadequately applied in India, but cows would not in any case qualify for the adjective: there are no cow-goddesses or temples to cows or icons of cows to which worship is offered, though there are festivals in which people decorate cows and give them fruits and flowers. Since cows are not deities, there is no need for cow statues. Benign bulls are beautifully depicted at the doors of Shiva temples, and there are temples to monkeys, tiger temples, temple elephants, shrines to snakes, and even a temple or two to dogs, who are closely associated with Bhairava (an aspect of Shiva).i But not to cows.
‘Holy’ (or ‘sacred’) means a lot more than not-to-be-killed. Few of us kill, or eat, our children, but none would argue that they are sacred. Cows are, in fact, one of the few animals that are not the object of worship in India. Yet cows have been, for centuries, cultural symbols of non-violence and of the passive, bovine aspect of women, in sharp contrast with mares, whom the mythology depicts as oversexed, insatiable and Fatally Attractive.

COWS IN ANCIENT INDIA

In ancient India, from the time of the oldest religious text, the Rig Veda (c. 1500 BCE), cows were eaten regularly, both ritually and for many of the same reasons that people nowadays eat Big Macs. Like most cattle-breeding cultures, the Vedic Indians generally ate the castrated steers, but they would eat the female of the species on certain special occasions such as rituals or when welcoming a guest or a person of high status. The Brahmanas say that a bull or cow should be killed when a guest arrives, a cow should be sacrificed to Mitra and Varuna, and a sterile cow to the Maruts, and that twenty-one sterile cows should be sacrificed in the horse-sacrifice. For ‘the cow is food’. The grammarian Panini, who may have lived as early as the fifth or sixth century BCE, glossed the word go-ghna (literally, ‘cow-killer’) as ‘one for whom a cow is killed, that is, a guest’. [3.4.73] A Dharmasutra from the third century BCE specifies: ‘The meat of milk cows and oxen may be eaten, and the meat of oxen is fit for sacrifice.’ This textual evidence is further supported, in this period, by archaeological indications such as cattle bones found near domestic hearths, bearing marks of having been cut, indicating that their flesh was eaten.
It is one of the ironies of history that the British, who called themselves Beefeaters, once ruled India. Yet the ancient inhabitants of India in their attitude to cows somewhat resembled not Britons so much as early Texans: the people of the Rig Veda (like other members of the Indo-European family) were cattle-herders and cattle-rustlers, who went about stealing other peoples’ cows and pretending to be taking them back, all in the service of a religion that argued for Lebensraum, constant expansion, more and more grazing land for their horses. They sacrificed cows to the gods and ate them themselves, and they counted their wealth in pashus (cattle), cognate with Latin pecus (as in ‘impecunious’), Spanish pecos (as in ‘Pecos Bill’). On the other hand, one Brahmana passage forbids the eating of either cow or bull (dhenu or anaduh), concluding that anyone who did eat them ‘would be reborn as something so strange that people would say, “He committed a sin, he expelled the embryo from his wife.”’ The text then adds, ‘However, Yajnavalkya, said, “I do eat [the meat of both cow and bull], as long as it’s tasty.”’
But one of the ‘category error’ methods that Hindus used to resolve their ambivalence about ahimsav (nonviolence, or, more precisely, non-injury) was to make an exception for cows. Later texts insist that cows should not be eaten, and some people made a special exception and did eat meat but did not eat the meat of cows, as Romila Thapar points out: ‘Eventually it became a matter of status to refrain from eating beef and the prohibition was strengthened by various religious sanctions. Significantly, the prohibition was prevalent only among the upper castes.’ The argument against eating cows was not the sort of economic case that is often made today, and in any case that would have applied to other animals as well. Nor was the appeal of remaining superior to beef-eating Muslim invaders and mlechas (unclean invaders, such as the British) relevant in the ancient period, though such concerns did indeed eventually contribute to the cow-protection case. It was more a symbolic argument about female purity and docility, and a religious argument about Brahmin sanctity, that prevailed from the start. And the social-hierarchy reasons for not eating the meat of the cow persisted, as the sociologist M.N. Srinivas pointed out; the lower castes gave up beef when they wanted to move up the social ladder through the process known as ‘Sanskritization’.
The Mahabharata explained the transition to the non-eating of cows in a famous myth: ‘Once, when there was a great famine, King Prithu took up his bow and arrow and pursued the earth to force her to yield nourishment for his people. The earth assumed the form of a cow and begged him to spare her life; she then allowed him to milk her for all that the people needed.’ This myth imagines a transition from hunting wild cattle (the earth cow) to preserving their lives, domesticating them, and breeding them for milk, in a transition to agriculture and pastoral life. It visualizes the cow as the paradigmatic animal that yields food without being killed. The earth-cow later becomes the wishing-cow (Kama-dhenu), from whom you can milk anything you desire—not just food but silk cloths, armies of soldiers, anything. (The same function was sometimes assigned to wishing-trees [Kalpa-vriksha] or the ocean of milk, from which one can pick or churn whatever is desired.)

COWS IN CONTEMPORARY INDIA

Gandhi’s attitude to cows was an essential component of his version of nonviolence. Gandhi used the image of ‘calf love’ (vatsalya), the calf’s love for and from a mother cow, particularly the Earth Cow, Mother Earth, as a key symbol for his imagined Indian nation. He tried to include Muslims in the family, but cow protection was a factor in his failure to attract large-scale Muslim support, for, by the nineteenth century, one of the objects of the cow-protection movement was to force Muslims, who killed cows, to leave India.
The present-day fundamentalist movement of ‘Hindutva’ (literally, ‘Hindu-tion’) has attempted to use the alleged sanctity of the cow to disenfranchise Muslims, some of whom eat beef and/or slaughter the cows that many Hindus—in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, for instance—eat. Such Hindus argue that ‘We Hindus have always been here in India, and have Never Eaten Cows; Those Muslims have come in, and Kill and Eat Cows, and therefore must be destroyed.’ And it is not only the beef-eating Muslims (and Christians) who are the target of Hindutva’s hate brigade. In 2002, five Dalits were lynched in Jhajjar, Haryana, for skinning a cow; days later, eighty Dalits from the villages of those killed converted to Buddhism, Christianity and Islam.
THE ATTACK ON THE MYTH OF THE HOLY COW
In 2001, Dwijendra Narayan Jha, Professor of History at the University of Delhi, published The Myth of the Holy Cow, a dry, straight academic survey of the history of Sanskrit texts dealing with the eating, or not-eating, of cows. The book marshals indisputable evidence proving what every scholar of India has known for well over a century: that [a] the ancient Indians ate beef; [b] almost as early, the practice of vegetarianism in general, and, somewhat later, the prohibition of beef-eating in particular, spread throughout India, in Buddhism and Jainism as well as Hinduism, and continued alongside an on-going practice of meat-eating; and, finally, [c] several reformers, most famously Gandhi, made vegetarianism, particularly the taboo against eating beef, a central tenet of Hinduism. Professor Jha traces the history of the doctrine forbidding the eating of cows or the killing of cows, soundly and thoroughly covering both the classic texts and cutting-edge scholarship, both Indian and European.
The only shocking thing about this book is the news that someone had found it shocking, had been shocked, shocked by the argument that people used to eat cows in ancient India. Yet the cover of the book proudly proclaims: ‘A Book the Government of India Demands be Ritually Burned’, and the flyleaf assures us that the book was ‘banned by the Hyderabad Civil Court and the author’s life has been threatened.’ The Observer likened the book’s reception to that of Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses, and even the more-PC-than-thou Lingua Franca felt that the case was sexy/trendy enough to justify a notice that the book ‘was pulled from the country’s shelves’. Why?


Apparently what makes this a shocking book is the simple fact that it contradicts the Hindutva party line (the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP] was in power in India when Jha’s book was published). Ironically, the pejorative phrase ‘sacred cow’ designates precisely the sort of fanaticism that has dogged the attacks on Professor Jha’s book. His basic point stands and is proved beyond dispute: the claim that Hindus have never eaten cows is false. But who will listen to him? Have any of the people making the Hindutva arguments—which are not historical or scholarly but religious and political—read—or, indeed, will they ever read—Professor Jha’s book? Michel Foucault and Edward Said, among others, have taught us that scholarship is often deeply implicated in creating the political mess in the first place; but scholarship has demonstrated far less power to clean the mess up. Like the sorcerer’s apprentice, or Frankenstein, or the scientists on the Manhattan Project, scholars create imperialist monsters that they cannot control but merely watch, aghast, from the sidelines, crying, ‘No, no, put it down!!!’ Yet the fact that The Myth of the Holy Cow was attacked is a good sign, a sign that someone among the Hindutva thugs reads, and worries that the pen may still be, if not mightier than the nuclear arsenal, at least a weapon worth scanning for, like knives at airports, a weapon capable of subversion.

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