Chaurasi Devataon-wali Gai, or 'The Cow with 84 deities' by Raja Ravi Varma / Ravi Varma Press (1897, Life: 1848-1906) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsFor the second time in a few days, I came across a story of religious excess in the supposedly-highly-spiritual country of India. For the last couple years, sanctimonious Hindu nationalists have attacked beef-eating Muslims. Among many Hindus, cattle are sacred or divine or something, for some reason. It hasn’t always been this way, of course. In ancient times, Hindus had no objection to butchering and eating cows, however, this changed sometime in the middle of the first millennium CE (Archive.Is cached article). It’s usually attributed to the spread of non-violence in Indian culture, although it’s difficult to really say that India ever became non-violent; and other forms of livestock continued to be butchered and eaten. Only cattle was reserved as divine or sacred or whatever. So that doesn’t exactly fly as an explanation.

At any rate, while Hindus comprise a majority of India, there are religious minorities there, especially Muslims, who do consume cattle. (By contrast, they refuse to eat swine. Go figure.) This has aroused the ire of Hindu extremists, who don’t want anyone consuming cattle. That fervent impulse has led to the rise of “cow protection” rackets, and violence has ensued — especially after the election of Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi in 2014.

Modi’s government has been accused of dragging its feet where Hindu nationalist violence is concerned. As Reuters reports, India’s Supreme Court has directed the government to intervene meaningfully (cached):

The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered central and state governments to appoint police officers to stop hardline Hindu activists from attacking people to protect cows….…

Chief Justice Dipak Misra said federal and state governments must take effective steps to contain the cow-protection groups.

“Appoint police officers to stop cow protection groups from taking law into their hands,” Misra said after hearing three public interest litigation cases.

Reuters notes that Modi did speak out against “cow protection” violence in June, but the Court’s directions would suggest that hasn’t been sufficient.

As I’ve noted previously, India is not the pacifist, spiritual paradise many westerners think it is. Quite the opposite, it’s home to more than a little primitive savagery. And religious extremism isn’t limited just to the Abrahamic religions. As we see, it can be — and is — found within the dharmic faiths, as well.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: Dispatches from the Culture Wars.

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