‘They are forcing us to become Hindu’: How beef is being used to target Adivasis in Jharkhand

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‘They are forcing us to become Hindu’: How beef is being used to target Adivasis in Jharkhand

Post by Rashmun on Sun Jul 09, 2017 11:25 am

“Dear comrades, can anyone tell me where I can buy beef in Jamshedpur?” wrote Jeetrai Hansda in Hindi. “I want to organise a beef party.”

This two-sentence Facebook post set off a storm in Jamshedpur. Right wing groups such as the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s student wing were aghast that a teacher – Jeetrai Hansda taught drama at the Graduate School College for Women in the town – not only ate beef, he had the gall to advertise the fact publicly.

Jeetrai Hansda had posted this status on June 1 as a protest against the beef hysteria gripping the country as well as his home state of Jharkhand. “As a Santhali, eating beef is part of my culture,” explained Jeetrai Hansda. “If Santhalis are Indian, there should be no laws which force us to adopt Hindu customs. I reject that.”

While the impact of the hysteria against beef on Muslims and even Dalits has been well documented, its effect on Jharkhand’s Adivasis hasn’t. In Jharkhand, the issue of beef is being subtly used by Hindutva organisations to put pressure on Adivasis and influence them in ways that will benefit the BJP politically.

Cow slaughter law
Jharkhand passed its cow slaughter law in 2005 that penalises illegal cow slaughter and transport with a term of up to 10 years. While it has now been overtaken by states such as Gujarat (which now awards a life sentence for cow slaughter), at the time, Jharkhand had one of the harshest cow slaughter laws in the Union – a highly ironic state of affairs given that Jharkhand was created in 2000 as a home for Adivasis, for whom beef is an everyday part of their diet.

“When the law was passed we did not realise the impact it would have on society,” said Raimul Bandra, a member of the Ho community and a member of the Bindra Institute for Research Study and Action, a Jharkhandi nongovernmental organisation which works on Adivasi welfare. “Beef has always been a part of diet. Most Adivasis eat it since it is such a cheap meat.”

Jeetrai Hansda explained that for the Adivasis, the issue wasn’t even limited to food. “We not only eat beef, cattle sacrifice is a part of the Santhal festival of Doson. Even the Mundas sacrifice cattle,” he said. “Any ban on beef is an attack on our culture. This law forces Hindu customs on us.”



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