Hindu nationalists hit animal sacrifice
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2003:
NEW DELHI–“There is a great need to cleanse Hinduism” of
animal sacrifice, “and the time is now,” editorialized the October
2003 edition of The Organizer, the official publication of the
hardline Hindu nationalist volunteer corps Rashtriya Swayamsewak
The RSS is often described as the ideological arm of the
ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
The Organizer strongly praised former actress Jayalitha
Jayaram, now chief minister of Tamil Nadu state, for ordering
police to halt animal sacrifices on August 28. After three men were
arrested the next day for sacrificing goats and hens at Madurai, no
more sacrifices were reported for a week.
Members of the People’s Art & Literary Association and
Revolutionary Students & Youth Front then defied Jayalitha (usually
called by just her first name) by staging sacrifices in Tirunelveli
and Tiruchirapalli. Police detained but did not charge the suspected
The RSS opposition to animal sacrifice came amid rising
tension in India over cow slaughter. In Ahmedabad, where sectarian
riots killed 100 Hindus and 2,000 Muslims in May 2002, police on
September 6 fired tear gas to break up a stone-throwing mob who
accosted municipal workers during a stray cattle round-up. The mob
released eight of the 200 cattle who had been captured.
The Hindustan Times reported on the eve of the September 22
sentencing of the 13 convicted killers of U.S. missionary Graham
Staines and his sons that the mob was motivated by seeing tribal
Indians eating beef. Staines, 57, and the boys, 6 and 10, were
burned alive in 1999. Despite the hint that Staines had promoted
beef-eating, there was no reported violence after the court ordered
that instigator Dara Singh should be hanged, while the others are to
serve life in prison. All 13 defendants have appealed.
Media commentators indicated that the RSS position against
animal sacrifice may reflect an increasing sense of security among
the BJP leadership.
In mid-2002, by contrast, after People for Animals founder
Maneka Gandhi clashed with both devotees of religious animal
sacrifice and biomedical researchers over their “sacrifices” of
animals, BJP Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee took away the ministry for
animal welfare that Mrs. Gandhi had held as an independent member of
the government coalition since 1998.
The Organizer criticized King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah of
Nepal. Four days before Mrs. Gandhi was fired, the king sacrificed
five animals during a state visit to Assam. Told that the
sacrifices were planned, Mrs. Gandhi warned that they would be
illegal under the 1960 Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. PfA
won a restraining order against the sacrifices, but the Jhalukbari
police detachment refused to enforce it, citing an exemption in the
1960 law for sacrifices conducted “in a manner required by religion.”
While criticizing the king would be risky within Nepal, a
theocracy that practices a primitive form of Hinduism, Lucia de
Vries of Friends of the SPCA-Nepal on September 28 appealed for
international opposition to a web site which promotes to Nepalese
living abroad the notion of buying a goat for sacrifice by relatives
or friends at home.