Sometime last week, a Muslim butcher was arrested in Mumbai for allegedly selling beef. An “activist” for a cow protection organisation complained to the police that the butcher, a member of the Qureishi community which almost monopolises this trade, was selling cow meat in contravention of a recently passed law that prohibits it. The butcher denied this. The police sent off the meat for testing but while the results were awaited, arrested him, adding to the fears of many in the state that the new law was aimed at the minorities.
This is the kind of issue the ministry of minority affairs should be looking at. There is no word whether the minister in charge of this portfolio, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi has heard about this case; but there is a good chance that if it is brought to his notice, he will say, “Why doesn’t Qureishi go to Pakistan.” Or, if he is in a good mood, ask him to switch to selling vegetables.
Those were the remarks the minister made the other day when the issue of a ban on beef was raised by a journalist.”Those who are dying without eating beef, can go to Pakistan or Arab countries or any other part of world where it is available,” Naqvi said.
One wonders if it struck Naqvi for even a moment that “why don’t you go to Pakistan” is one of those taunts that is constantly thrown at Indian Muslims, implying that they are at heart Pakistanis – and therefore traitors – and should get out of ‘Hindu’ India.
On the other hand, it is a frightening thought that Naqvi knew exactly what the taunt meant. As a Muslim, he may have heard this remark before and recognized its hurtful potency. As a long standing member of the BJP, he would have known of the communal attitudes of Sanghi types. In April 2014, his party colleague Giriraj Singh had declared that critics of Narendra Modi could go to Pakistan—surely Naqvi would have immediately understood the sub-text. And yet he chose to say this.
The one plausible reason for this is that Naqvi wants to please his bosses. It certainly did not do any harm to Giriraj Singh’s career—he went on to become a minister after the elections. Naqvi may have felt that he could prove his credentials as a good party man by going the distance and not just spewing the party line – he could have easily invoked some other explanation for the beef ban – but emphatically painting beef eaters as somehow anti-national.
For that’s what the “go to Pakistan” statement is. It is a warning to deviants of all sorts—religious, cultural, ideological – that they can survive in India only if they fall in with the “majority” view. If you are a minority – and thus by implication somehow different from the mainstream – you must either change your outlook or get out. At best, you can live under sufferance. Muslims get the worst of it, of course, but this attitude extends to others too. It is beef eaters today, tomorrow it could be atheists, gays, even comedians. Journalists, whom this government loves to describe as “news traders”, “presstitutes” and “bazaaru”, could be included too. A righteous and macho state cannot tolerate dissidents—it sets out to reform or re-educate them, failing which, it tries to crush them. Naqvi is very kindly giving these elements a way out.
Naqvi will surely know that beef eating is not limited to one community alone and instead of going all the way to Pakistan, a beef eater just has to visit Calcutta or Trivandrum or any of the north eastern states.Or even Goa, which is ruled by the BJP. Buffalo meat is available all over India. No doubt, in response to this ridiculous ban in Maharashtra and Haryana, smuggling will become par for the course. Prohibition has not stopped liquor being sold in Gujarat.
Naqvi’s words will remain shallow and bombastic. But like all such loose talkers, he has no intention of following up his remarks with action. He just wanted to make a point, not to the beef eaters but to his political masters. I may look different but not to worry, I am one of you.