Bakrid or Eid-Al-Adha is around the corner and it is this time of the year when I feel the most helpless. Lakhs and lakhs of goats would be mercilessly slaughtered in the name of ‘Qurbaani”. I am sure I am not the only person to think that this is a cruel and dastardly act, but unfortunately there is nothing that people like me can do, except venting out feelings here. This is after all a religious festival and if the religion in question happens to be Islam, there isn’t much to debate in India. The bitter truth is that, if one questions any ritual or custom of Hinduism, he or she is considered to be progressive, rational and secular, but if one raises any question against a custom of Islam, he or she automatically becomes a right-wing communal bigot. Obviously, everyone wants to be known as a progressive, secular person and hence, the cruelty of this festival is rarely spoken about by people.
The concept of sacrifice – absurd at best
Bakrid is also called ‘Sacrifice Feast’ and is the second of the two Muslim festivals celebrated world-wide. It honors the willingness of Ibrahim to sacrifice his son as an act of submission to God’s command, before God then intervened sending his angel Jibra’il (Gabriel) and informs him that his sacrifice has been accepted. To honor his supreme sacrifice, goats are slaughtered and the meat from the sacrificed animal is divided into three parts. The family retains the first part, the second part is given to relatives and the third part is given to the poor and the needy.
Sacrifice or Qurbaani or Balidan is an act of giving up something that is valuable to oneself in order to help someone else. What Ibrahim did definitely amounts to sacrifice. He gave up his son, who was dear to him, for the benefit of greater good. How can this be compared with slaughtering a goat? The sacrificed goat does not mean anything to the slaughterer and is not dear to him. So, slaughtering the goat and drawing parallels with that Ibrahim did is absurd at best and mindlessly cruel to put it bluntly.
Animal sacrifice in Hinduism and the laws around it
It is not that animal sacrifice as a concept is practiced in Islam alone. The practice is prevalent among Hindus too, where helpless animals are mercilessly slaughtered in some temples. This is especially prevalent in the Bhavani and Kali temples and is practiced by the Rajputs in Rajasthan and is also common in the five South Indian States. As per law, animal sacrifice is illegal. The act of Animal Sacrifice is covered under local Municipal Corporation Acts, Prevention of Cruelty to animals Act, 1960, Wildlife Protection Act 1972 and the Indian Penal Code (IPC). It is also specifically forbidden under The Prohibition of Bird and Animal Sacrifice Act in some of the states. Bakrid is an exception to this and there is no law that prohibits sacrificing goats on this day.
What does the Bhagwad Gita say about animal sacrifice?
As per the Bhagwad Gita, there are three gunas that are present in every man: Tamas (darkness, ignorant, chaotic), Rajas (passion, confused, active) and Sattva (goodness, constructive, harmonious). It is advised to strive and reduce the tamas and rajas gunas and increase the Sattva guna. In Chapter 17 of the Gita, Lord Krishna explains tapah or austerities that are indicative of tama guna or the mode of ignorance. The austerities that consist of foolish concoctions as well as diabolical practices due to an acute lack of discrimination, which is sadistic and masochistic, which causes mental and physical anguish to oneself such as flagellation and causes acute suffering to others such as blood rituals and human and animal sacrifices are irrevocably situated completely in the darkness of tama guna.
The practice of animal sacrifice in Hindu temples is done by ignorant human beings and there must be strong laws to prevent such practices. Most forward-thinking progressive Hindus would not have a problem with this. As a Hindu nationalist, I fully support strict laws around this and strongly feel that no animal must be sacrificed in any Hindu temple. Such practices are nothing but a blot on Hinduism and must not be encouraged at any cost.
Why are the liberals, animal lovers and progressive Muslims silent about Bakrid?
In September 2014, People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) activists campaigned for vegetarianism ahead of Bakrid and they were manhandled by a mob of Muslims. This is the one instance when there was some kind of protest against goat sacrifice during Bakrid.
Apart from this, the liberal brigade in our country that otherwise bats for a colorless Holi, cracker-less Diwali, eco-friendly Ganesh Chaturthi, ban on Jallikattu and so on has never endorsed a bloodless Bakrid.
There was an incident in Chennai earlier this year when a man threw a dog off the roof and the entire liberal brigade was going hammer and tongs about the cruelty to the dog. Yes, there is no doubt that the man performed a cruel act and the liberal animal loving brigade was absolutely right in demanding a strong punishment for the man. But why are they silent now, when lakhs of goats are going to be ruthlessly killed? Why don’t they raise their voice against the cruel practice of goat sacrifice on Bakrid?
Will goats not feel pain when they are butchered? Are they scared that they will be accused of political incorrectness and of being communal if they speak against anything Islamic? If that’s indeed the case, then it is nothing but double standards. The very concept of sacrifice here is twisted and it is high time voices are raised against this dastardly celebration of sacrifice. Will the liberals please show some guts in questioning an unethical Islamic practice? I hope they do not give the excuse of religious freedom and right to eat to cover up for their lack of guts.
Sacrifice is to give up something that is dear to you for the well-being of someone else or for a noble cause. The very concept of sacrifice in Bakrid makes absolutely no sense as the goat that is being sacrificed is not dear to the slaughterer by any stretch of imagination. Unfortunately, most members in the civil society and the liberal animal loving brigade in India do not have guts to speak this simple truth. Any statement against this cruel practice would be detrimental to the secular credentials of the person and he or she will be seen as a communal bigot. This is the plain and unfortunate truth. This post of mine is going to attract flak from the brokers of secularism but this will not prevent me from speaking the truth.