Ayurveda and the Ills of Nationalism

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By AMITA KANEKAR

 

Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh have set up Ayurvedic centres for producing ‘ideal progeny’, in terms of gender, skin colour, height, courage, and so on; this RSS-backed Garbh Vigyan Sanskar project has already delivered 450 ‘customised babies’, according to the office-bearers, is part of the University curriculum in Jamnagar, Gandhinagar, and Bhopal, and plans to set up base in every Indian state by 2020. In Maharashtra, meanwhile, one of the textbooks prescribed for the 3rd year of the Bachelor of Ayurveda, Medicine, and Surgery (BAMS) course explains various methods to produce a male child.

 

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Beefing up the Law for No Beef

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By ALBERTINA ALMEIDA

 

You have to throw a stone to figure out the ripple effect. That is what Subramanian Swamy did when he said on a national television show that Goa’s beef eating tradition had to be changed. The BJP has, for some time now, made Goa a Hindutva laboratory, with its front organizations or politically connected organisations, either hosting conventions on aiming for Hindu Rashtra from 2023, or stating that India is already a Hindu Rashtra for centuries or stating that it should be culturally a Hindu Rashtra. These include RSS, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal, Durga Vahini. They were clearly looking to see exactly how the reactions would be and perhaps also exactly how they could be polarized.

 

The ruling coalition partner Goa Forward’s legislative head, Vijai Sardesai, when asked what he thought of this, said Subramanian had spoken in his individual capacity.  So said Dattaprasad Naik, as a spokesperson of BJP. Before that, in view of the looming possibility of no-beef and the same becoming an election issue at the Assembly and Panchayat elections, Chief Minister Parrikar (then India’s defence minister) had said that the individual choice would be respected but also sneaked in a caveat that he would always follow the law and by April 2017 he was already saying that he will saying nothing again about this.

 

Read More: Learning from the Beef Ban.

 

Came May 2017 and a ban on cattle slaughter is surreptitiously sought to be imposed, under the guise of these Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Market) Rules. The notification bans sale and purchase, in animal markets, of bovines for slaughter.

 

In times gone by, Goa had several slaughter houses for cattle. These slaughter houses were mostly run by minorities. The first salvo of slaughter ban was fired in 1978, when cow slaughter was banned by a legislation called The Goa Daman and Diu Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act 1978 and sale of the beef of the flesh of cow was prohibited. However as the ban was specific to cow, there was not much resistance, also perhaps as this happened barely two decades after the integration of Goa into India, as people were constantly reminded that they have to be focused on development and construction of a free Goa.

 

 

But then came the Goa Animal Preservation Act, 1995, enacted during the Congress rule in Goa. This was in the aftermath of the Ayodhya dispute when Congress was looking to playing the B team of the BJP after being on the verge of losing its majority on account of the political traction BJP was being able to gain by playing the Hindutva card.

 

Read More: Cow Politics and Slavery.

 

By this Animal Preservation Act, the slaughter of  bovines, that is bulls, bullocks, male calves, male and female buffaloes, castrated buffaloes,and buffalo calves, was sought to be regulated. Certification was now required that the cattle is fit for slaughter. By certification was meant that the cattle was uneconomic for farming or dairy purposes or that the cattle was fit for slaughter on account of suffering from disease. This law was further amended in 2003 and 2010 to give the 1995 law more teeth. The Animal Preservation Act also sought to regulate the sale of beef only with appropriate certification.

 

 

The present ban on bovine slaughter has come under the guise of Rules for livestock markets under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. These Rules set out that a person who brings cattle to the market for sale has to furnish a written declaration from the owner that the cattle has not been brought to market for sale for slaughter, and that the purchaser shall not sell the animal for slaughter.

 

 

As of now, no animal markets exist in Goa. The beef traders purchase the cattle from random individual farmers in Goa, but the stock purchased in Goa is woefully inadequate for the daily consumption.

 

Read More: Scoring Beef, Underscoring Banal Hindutva: The Limits of MTV’s Activism.

 

Only one slaughter house is prescribed as specified place for the purposes of slaughter in Goa. It is the slaughter house of the Goa Meat Complex. The traders on purchasing the animals for slaughter, then transport the cattle across the Karnataka border to the Goa Meat Complex for slaughter.  Shortly after the Rules were notified in the Gazette by the Central Government, the beef traders faced the first rumblings of the notification in the form of being stopped at the Karnataka borders where the police at that end feared that they would face the rage of the gaurakshaks for not enforcing the Livestock Markets Rules if they let them pass. It took a verbal intervention by the Chief Minister to have the cattle pass the police exit point so they could then make their way to the vehicle entry toll booth.

 

 

As of now therefore the beef traders continue to purchase bovines from the animal markets across the border for slaughter. But clearly the Damocles sword of penalties for violation of Livestock Rules continues to hang over them. If no cattle was available for slaughter, by now the stock of cattle already admitted in the Goa Meat Complex would have got exhausted.

 

 

With the legislature party President of the ruling coalition partner, Goa Forward,  making categoric statements that they will not allow beef ban in Goa, and off the cuff statements being made at various levels of governance and politics, the State is poised for some more play of words to diffuse the imminent beef ban, before the Government will HAVE to come completely clear in a writ petition filed by the Quraishi’s  Meat Traders Association of Goa, primarily on the plank of posing a threat to their right to carry on a trade or occupation of their choice without being vulnerable to the consequences of enforcement of the Livestock Rules.

 

This is, of course, apart from the serious challenge posed by a slaughter ban to the fundamental right of the citizens to their food choices and to access to nutritious food, within the parameters of the Constitution, to the rights of people dependent on cattle slaughter for their livelihood, which includes ancillary trades like the soap factories, the fertilizer production units, the toothpaste manufacturing plants, that utilize the non-beef products of slaughter. Not to speak of the burden on the already being crushed farmers, who have to tend cattle that are unproductive and will not be able to sell those cattle for cattle that they can productively use.

 

(A shorter version was first published in O Heraldo, dt: 15 June, 2016)

Cow Politics and Slavery

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By DALE LUIS MENEZES

 

The recent comments by members of the Sangh Parivar on the complete ban on the consumption of beef in Goa have ignited a controversy. The comments, casteist as they are, have shifted the attention of the Goan people away from pressing issues like the future of casinos, the Mopa airport, the crises in the mining sector, environmental pollution, and everyday governance. That such comments divert our attention elsewhere is unfortunate; but every time such comments are made we should remind ourselves what exactly lies at the heart of such hate politics.

 

The online Ambedkarite portal, Round Table India, has been publishing articles critically analyzing the economics and politics of ‘beef ban’, especially since the ban enforced by Maharashtra from 2015. It is with the help of these and some other news reports that I wish to make the case that, through ‘beef bans’ and cow politics, the poor and minoritized population is being pushed further into the depths of poverty and caste, eventually making them live in conditions akin to slavery.

 

Following the ban in Maharashtra by the Devendra Fadnavis-led government, Arvind Kumar argued that the move had all the makings of a “social conspiracy” against the dalit-bahujans in India, especially in Maharashtra. “I see the beginnings,” he says, “of a reversal of ‘social change’”. Kumar argues that if non-productive cattle – whether used for dairy products or as draught animals – are not slaughtered then they will have to be disposed by someone after they die. Who will do this dirty work? He says that it is those who come from the ‘untouchable’ castes who will either be forced or lured into occupations such as disposing and skinning dead cattle and further “get trapped in the evil practice of untouchability”.

 

Kumar seems to have rightly perceived the diabolic game plan behind the ban on cow slaughter in Maharastra as the NGO that worked to make the ban a reality has similar plans. In an interview to Scroll.in, Rajendra Joshi, a trustee of the Viniyog Parivar Trust, said, “Cattle will now die their natural deaths scattered across the state, and it will help revive the traditional vocations of chamars and mochis [tanners and cobblers] across the state”. In making such a statement, Joshi admits that people are moving away from occupations such as tanning and hence such occupations need to be “revive[d]”. Obviously, people would not volunteer to perform such demeaning traditional occupations, hence the coercion of the state is seen as so necessary.

 

This emphasis on bringing back the ‘traditional’ precisely confirms what Kumar had suspected all along: undo social mobility and reorder labor relations. The idea ultimately is to return to a casteist way of life and production relations that perpetuates practices of untouchability. Talking in terms of untouchability does not mean that the issue is solely about religion, rituals, or belief; it is also fundamentally an economic issue as those who provide labor in a caste society – including those who work in agriculture and clear/skin dead cattle – come from the lower strata of society.

 

Studies have shown that if non-productive cattle are not culled – that is livestock rearing is not done in a scientific and economically rational manner – then the population of cattle begins to shrink. In other words, slaughter is essential if the agricultural and dairy production is to be maintained at an economically viable level. Farmers, being unable to dispose of such cattle, have to bear the burden of sustaining non-productive animals. Selling non-productive cattle (whether cows or bulls) for slaughter (with the resultant production of food, leather, and other important goods) sustains an agrarian economy dependent on bovine animals. The butcher is an integral part of this economy. In fact we can observe that a ban on cow slaughter economically burdens farmers, dairy farmers, butchers, and meat traders. However, the only ones who are laughing all the way to the bank are the beef exporters – many of them upper caste Hindus – who seem to be increasing the quantum of exports despite this hate politics.

 

Seen from the perspective of the ill-effects that a ‘beef ban’ and anti-cow slaughter laws have on the society and the economy, it is imperative that secular forces and those keen to maintain Goan traditions call for nothing less than a complete revocation of these ‘cow protection’ laws, including the one that the MGP government brought into force in Goa in the 1970s. It is also a litmus test to the votaries of secularism and Goemkarponn if they will push for the revocation or change of laws antithetical to the lives and livelihoods of Goans.

 

In Goa too, one can observe that it has become increasingly difficult for people to maintain cattle. It is simply not economically viable, and over a period of time so many people have stopped rearing cattle. Add to this, one sees a large number of cows scavenging from dustbins and other areas. The oppressive ‘cow protection’ laws – circumscribed by a upper caste Hindu morality – has made it difficult for people to maintain cows and the bovine population to sustain itself.

 

Thus, the issue is not simply about people being unable to eat beef (that is, without being lynched or killed for it). While it is true that ‘beef bans’ pose a threat to a loosely defined ethos of ‘secularism’, the issue is much deeper in which the laboring poor are trapped within the oppressive structures of caste, poverty, and tradition. It is a form of slavery that is perpetuated by the law and a casteist morality which is undoing the social mobility achieved through the struggles of various groups. While forcing labor relations based on caste hierarchies, such ‘beef bans’ also deny ‘minorities’ like Christians and Muslims (of all castes and classes) the choice of food and cultural practices ostensibly because it offends upper caste Hindu sensibilities.

 

(First published in O Heraldo, dt: 26 April, 2017)

What made ‘Goemkarponn’ so Manoeuvrable?

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By ALBERTINA ALMEIDA

 

From the get go, there was no sign of Goem, Goemkar, Goemkarponn at all. Not even when the 2017 Goa Legislative Assembly election results were beginning to trickle in. One would have thought that small is beautiful and manageable and that the smallness of Goem affords a unique opportunity to better and more expeditiously manage.  But despite EVM machines as in other states, which should have seen the results pouring in rather than trickling in, Goa’s results took a longer time than those of UP with ten times the number of seats.  Indeed Goa’s counting in relation to that of the rest of India’s states that went to the polls was ajeeb (strange).

 

Given Goa’s small size, it is possible to reach every voter in the constituency without spending money or having people descend here who have no sense of Goa’s ethos. But that was not to be, it seems. There was talk of distribution of money on the one hand, by the two leading national political parties, and then there was the AAP which had brought in who it called ‘volunteers’ from elsewhere in India and who were standing at various corners and waving AAP flags to disgusted passers-by. Neither the topis nor the topics that they raised, nor the flags they waved, had political traction or any semblance of Goemkarponn. If anything, the topis are symbolic of ‘politicians’ in the narrow sense of self-centred species, who the average Goan despises. The ‘high command’ politics sans Goemkarponn, that people had tired of in the prevailing politics, was not absent with AAP either. Therefore, when AAP beat the drums of Goemkarponn, it did not resonate for Goemkars.

 

On the other hand, the effort by AAP at not throwing money to voters, which can fit into the small-is-manageable Goa model, did shake the BJP, for what this can portend if such an ethic entrenches itself. Therefore, although the AAP did not open its account in Goa, the frisson of schadenfreude that was manifest by the BJP cheer leaders about AAP was palpable. Otherwise, this reaction of the BJP should be strange, considering that their joy should have been emanating from the Congress not winning a clear majority to the Assembly, which ultimately enabled them (the BJP) to manoeuvre and get to power.

 

The Goa Forward Party on its part, flaunting the slogan of Goem, Goemkar, Goemkarponn, did succeed in deceiving. They managed to cash in on the vulnerabilities of Goemkars who feel overwhelmed numerically as well as culturally.  The Goa Forward Party, it must be remembered, was not extolling the virtues of integrity, holistic approaches, or a serious engagement with the fields, the salt pans, the cashew hills and the seas, and the song and dance that comes with it. They were not extolling the repairs of natural embankments, and local levels of disaster prevention and management that comes together, or the development of the indigenous communities who have created and who sustain this landscape, that is projected as Goemkarponn.

 

They were extolling the palm-waving, singing and dancing Goemkarponn. This narrative of Goemkarponn has suited both the political parties who capitalize on the Goan nostalgia (nostalgia for the past in relation to the present) and the corporate business interests for whom this is a happy tourism and real estate economic model, in keeping with the advancing corporate interests of the times. That is where the peaceful, restful Goa (‘aaram’ to use Prime Minister Modi’s words in his pre-2017Assembly election speech in Goa) image-mongering comes from.

 

This business model of political parties was therefore a natural precursor to the coalition that emerged where Goemkarponn then got integrated even in the Hindutva nationalist party. It must make us think about how Indian and Goan nationalism colludes in an endeavor to destroy the people and the local people’s economies. What is it about the projection of Goemkarponn that makes it so vulnerable to be appropriated by the Hindutva ideology is something we must ponder about.

 

Clearly, what has been paraded is the Goemkarponn characterized by the cementing of caste and economic interests. We fail to see the writing on the wall, as to how our stated vulnerabilities as Goemkars, are channelized to forge an identity politics, that is problematic for us as a people within this geographic space of Goem and lets the status quo of caste and class dominance prevail, without questioning the structural causes of the problems that are besetting Goa.

 

The Congress was different from the BJP only to the point of claiming secularism and not subscribing, as a party, to the Hindutva ideology, but there were other ways of forging unity between BJP and Congress and also the regional party that called itself Goa Forward.  To reiterate, there were the common caste and economic interests to cement the relations and give it the brand of Goemkarponn. There was also the fact that there are hardly any Congresspersons who have not played footsie with the BJP or any other party. Many candidates in the last elections have been wanderers from one political party to another, in a journey towards egotropic power.

 

If one looks closely, there isn’t much of a difference between this kind of Goemkarponn – a sort of Goan authoritarian nationalist ideology, and Hindutva – a fascist nationalist ideology that does not see politics as a ‘power-with’ but a ‘power-over’ others.  So this brand emphasises the unity, strength and preservation of the geographical space, but the nature of this unity, strength and preservation is defined with upper caste/class coloured lens. Therefore while determining how these spaces are to be preserved, they do not focus on basics of people’s lives and their engagement with nature.

 

They focus, for instance, on the coconut tree in isolation, or the green fields in isolation, or the mineral wealth in isolation. The coconut trees are not seen for the coconuts which go in the making of people’s curry or for the mode of production as to who controls the coconut trees and how power is required to be diffused, so that it can cease to be oppressive and exploitative. The coconut tree becomes the reference point for height of buildings in regional plans, and for aesthetics in isolation from what makes it a part of the lives of Goan people. No wonder therefore that the coconut tree was de-notified as a tree under the Preservation of Trees Act, so as to enable the owners of the proposed liquor factory at Amdai, Sanguem, to cut all those coconut trees, and then we can so easily look to it being notified as a tree when the job is done.

 

Or they focus on the green fields with no measure of concern about who controls these green fields and how the real estate business does a walk over, over these green fields, without offering any solutions to the employment, spatial, or cultural concerns of the populace. So ultimately the real estate interests benefit with this kind of imagery of Goemkarponn – some green fields can surely enhance the value of their real estate business. But theyare not looking at how the green fields, and the cultivation on them and our food security too, can be sustained. Or at measures that people can take without an assault on their rights and controls as a people, such as in the maintenance of bunds, in a say on what development comes to bear in the vicinity and may affect the cultivation of the fields, in what kind of respect is given to the people who are actually cultivating the fields.

 

The other quaint similarity between this style of Goemkarponn and Hindutva is the fascist idolization of a leader (a führer). Such a Goemkarponn calls for one person to be idolized as a leader, and suddenly that mask of Goa’s camaraderie and joie de vivre drops. It is not about doing things together, enjoying life together, or pulling someone down if anyone advances too much leaving others behind (a la the crab). It is about insisting on a particular leader who has a convergence of all the traits that the sullied isolationist Goemkarponn they were talking about embodies. Hindutva is also the same: one leader, one voice. Its external ideological face may be different, and the local version may even pretend to be different from the national version. But this style of leadership bodes authoritarianism, arrogance and intolerance for those perceived as ‘the other’.

 

The führer is then seen as delivering the people from all the mess that the place has landed in, never mind if the mess is the outcome of the very brand of Goemkarponn which they are propagating. So the führer emerges with an image as a person who will put Goa’s economy back on the rails again. Never mind if it is with an illusion of an abundant budget, never mind if formal regular jobs are far from available, never mind if employment opportunities even for self-employment, are few and far between, and encouragement of start-ups will be restricted to those terrains that are required as ancillaries to the capital interests and will provide contracts to the small satraps.

 

Thus we see how fragile the definitions of Goemkarponn determined by a certain upper caste – class elite of Goa are in alignment with Hindutva, and bear no reflection of the Goemkarponn of Goemkars and of Goem as a whole.  The proof of the coconut pudding is in fact in the politics we are now eating.

 

(First published in Goa Today, dt: April 2017)

AAP: Clear and Present Danger?

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by

Jason Keith Fernandes

With the elections to the state legislature in the not so distant future the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Goa has begun its campaigning in earnest. As is well known, AAP has been projecting itself as a credible choice on the basis of its promise to deliver good, i.e. corruption free, governance. The question, however, is whether the AAP should be judged merely by its rhetoric, or should it be examined against a broader canvas?

Recent history demonstrates that electoral decisions determined solely by the theme of corruption have ensured that we have moved from the frying pan into the fire largely because we have failed to examine the politics that these electoral options practice. Take the example of the Modi government now wreaking havoc across India. Modi was elected into power because so many people, rightly fed up with the Congress, decided that the man was a good administrator and deserved a right to govern the country. Closer home in Goa, fatigue of the never-ending corruption scandals presided over by the Congress enabled the BJP to come to power.

We now realize that in addition to merely continuing the corrupt practices of the Congress, the BJP is also committed to a kind of fascist agenda that is difficult to undo even after they have been removed from power. This is a kind of moral corruption that is difficult to undo largely because, as I will go on to show, Hindu nationalism itself is never challenged. As such, when evaluating AAP in Goa it is imperative that their proximity to the agents and logics of Hindu nationalism must be strictly evaluated.

An evaluation of the AAP along this axis must begin with a statement by Dr. Dattaram Desai, the AAP candidate for North Goa in the previous Lok Sabha elections in 2014. At that time, Desai indicated in a local newspaper along the lines that he saw no problem with the RSS and that it was just another nationalist organization. When Desai was confronted on this matter at a public meeting conducted by the AAP he denied that he was a part of the RSS, and denounced the RSS as a communal organization. However, it seemed that he did so largely because he had been hounded into that position after being asked a series of leading questions. Desai had been asked at that meeting to issue a public statement to the effect that he did not approve of the RSS, something he agreed to, but one that, to the best of my knowledge, was not issued. Desai continues to be a leading member of AAP in Goa, and in light of his past comments, this fact should be a cause for concern.

At the above mentioned meeting Dr. Oscar Rebello, also a prominent member of the AAP in Goa, sought to clarify issues regarding the links between the RSS and AAP. Using characteristically simplistic logic, Rebello pointed out that he had friends in the RSS, but that did not necessarily make him a member of the RSS. Rebello’s logic may be simplistic, but it is often winning in its presentation. Of course one cannot, especially in a small place like Goa, deny people entry into a party because they were once members of the BJP. Perhaps they may have, as is suggested in the case of Desai, realized that the BJP will not deliver.  But the problem with the RSS, and more importantly Hindu nationalism, lies in the logics that we internalize owing to a lifetime of being immersed in it. If these logics are not actively challenged we too become part of the Hindutva machine.

In this context, the decision of the AAP in Goa to name its outreach program the Goa Jodo campaign is quite disturbing. Why privilege Hindi in a state with no lack of local languages? Because a non-Hindi Goan-ness is suspect? How is this position different from that of most Hindu nationalists and the implicit understanding that it is primarily Hindi and Hindu culture that defines Indian nationalism? One should bear in mind that Hindi nationalism, as one can surmise from the old slogan “Hindi-Hindu-Hindustan” has never been far away from Hindu nationalism. This desire to run with the Hindi-wallas can also be seen  in the video of Desai’s response discussed earlier, where it appears that Rebello refers to Desai as Dr. Desaiji. Now one is entirely at liberty to add honorifics to people’s name. The problem emerges when one realizes that the ji has become popular in Goa with the rise of Hindu nationalism in the past couple of years. The question emerges therefore, can we rely on such a group to assert the rights of Goans which necessarily runs against Hindi and Hindu nationalism, such as the demand of Special Status, and assert our right to be different within India?

But it is not merely the local AAP that has disturbing connections with the RSS or is blasé about Hindu nationalism. Pamela D’Mello writing for an on-line magazine pointed to the disturbing relationship of Dinesh Waghela to Hindu rightist outfits. Waghela was charged with setting up AAP in Goa, and at that point just like Desai went on record, to suggest that he did not see what was wrong with people from the RSS joining the party.

What also needs to be pointed out is that AAP’s insistence on its promised good-governance as a central reason for being a choice in the upcoming elections partakes in the Hindu Right’s pushing of strong administrators, whether Modi or our very own Parrikar. This is not to suggest that good governance is not an important issue. It is. However, we need to recognize that a limited understanding of corruption, and governance emerges from the very upper-caste and middle-class reasonings that have generated the Hindutva upsurge in the country. It is this kind of unthinking of, and challenge to Hindutva logics that is critical and necessary if AAP in Goa should emerge as a safer option than it currently seems to be.

Most disturbing of all, however, are the actions of the party supremo, Arvind Kejriwal. Kejriwal has had no problem in the past drawing such Hindu spiritual leaders like Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Baba Ramdev into his movement. Right from the get go therefore, Kejriwal has violated secularism by mingling the Hindu religion with his politics. More recently, despite the livelihood and environmental violations involved in setting up the venue for the World Culture Festival on the banks of the river Yamuna, and in contravention of his own position on corruption, Kejriwal saw it fit to attend the event, and kowtow before Ravi Shankar.  As distasteful as this may be to some, it is not necessarily out of character for unprincipled political leaders who need to engage in populist measures if they are to stay in power. It is, therefore, precisely because AAP Goa will have to play by established rules of the game once it is in power, that we need to evaluate them stringently before they get into power. In light of this, AAP Goa’s connections to soft Hindu nationalism present a clear and present danger.

First published in the O Heraldo dated 29 April 2016

Fight the Lie to the Bull in the Name of Cultural Heritage!

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By ALBERTINA ALMEIDA

The Chief Minister’s announced plan to restore bull fights in the Goan arena again, is mired in strategic fascist politics, given that restored is spoken of in the name of cultural heritage. Is this talk of restoration of bullfights going to be the proverbial foot through a door that will finally open up to sanction for all kinds of practices in the name of cultural heritage?

What constitutes cultural heritage? Must everything that constitutes cultural heritage be retained or restored? Sati was supposedly a cultural heritage, and when it was banned many caste-hindus protested about the colonial insensitivity. How would restoration of bullfights as a cultural heritage be different from the restoration of sati? According to some, the latter is also part of our culture, as a stone in the Goa Government museum bears testimony.

There is a polarisation of people on the issue of bullfights between the defenders of human rights and the defenders of animal rights, which seems to provide an opportunity for undemocratic totalitarian politics to hold the day. There is a “we-say-it-is-cultural-heritage- therefore-it must-be-retained-no matter-what-be-the-consequences” tone.

While there is a certain power in organising the bull-fights, there also emerged another kind of powerlessness because the bullfights could no longer be organised and subaltern sections that were involved in the bullfight related activities were being targetted. The power comes from a certain macho ability to organise the bullfights by raising the bulls and preparing and provoking them into a fight. And the powerlessness as in operation today comes from the selective criminalisation of practices of certain sections, of certain communities.

Let me relate my own experience of witnessing bull-fights. They were organised right in front of my ancestral house at Taleigao, on Harvest feast day in August each year at the Church Square. As a child, I was a regular attendee. There were crowds of people from all over Goa, to witness the spectacle. Often the bulls would lock themselves into a fight but there were also occasions when the bulls refused to lock themselves into the fight and simply ran away from the arena. This would cause a near stampede, because everyone was afraid, and naturally so, of being gored by the horns of the bull. There were also those occasions when, while the bulls were locking horns, some men in the crowd would take advantage of the situation and sexually harass women attendees, which I have also also been a victim of. Although this experience kept me from going for bull-fights again, I cannot forget how I enjoyed the spectacle of bull-fights along with relatives and Taleigao friends from the neighbourhood.

This naïve indulgence in adrenaline thrills of childhood is today a subject of a deeper anguish and guilt. I am re-questioning it because the whole idea of entertainment at bull-fights was built around bulls locking horns thereby putting a premium to fights, completely ignoring the cruelty to the bulls.

But then, when the bullfights were banned, the Government did nothing to rehabilitate the people from subaltern sections of society who were dependent on it. Even if a ban were to be inevitable, the Government had to demonstrate its humanitarian responsibilities to rehabilitate affected small entrepreneurs. Human rights invariably are made to take a back seat in the wake of bans.

Also, is restoration of bullfights a seeming way of addressing or pretending to address deep-seated prejudices that are increasingly surfacing ? We have a multifaceted and diverse cultural heritage. We continue to be robbed of much of its positive character, now in the name of Hindu Rashtra politics. So, can such isolated governance acts which polarise on human rights v animal rights lines, really bring back our cultural heritage? Can it at all restore our faith, when we see day in and day out the fascist tendencies running rampage to give a certain finality to dominant society practices as superior cultural heritage? How else does one explain the utter callousness following the killing of a Muslim on the ground that he ate beef? Or wringing out the survival of Catholics and Muslims in the business of beef?
Besides, the contextually located open spaces where bull-fights used to be held are vanishing. So, is this announcement about bullfights a red herring about choices that cannot be really exercised anymore? Surely they will not change the increasing encroachment, if we may call it that, on our spaces, on our positive cultural heritage, by rightwing Hindutva fundamentalist organisations?
Another lurking question is: why have only certain practices such as bull-fights been selectively criminalised? Is it about criminalising selective masculinities? While ignoring State masculinities such as those of banning cultural expressions in the name of not “hurting people’s sentiments”, or those that impose a culture of what to eat and not to eat at the cost of death? Or those that subtly impose a culture of what to eat with massive advertisements thereby pushing local products and the survival of people on those products out of the market?
Don’t make me choose between preserving heritage and hurting animals. We need a governance that privileges survival of ALL without discrimination.

(First published in O Heraldo, dt: 8 September, 2015)