Cattle slaughter in India

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Cattle slaughter, especially cow slaughter, is a controversial topic in India because of cattle's traditional status as an endeared and respected living being to adherents of Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism, Buddhism, and Parsiism while being considered an acceptable source of meat by Muslims and Christians as well as adherents of other non-Dharmic Religions in India, such as the Animists and Irani Zoroastrians. More specifically, the cow's slaughter has been shunned because of a number of reasons such as being associated with god Krishna in Hinduism, cattle being respected as an integral part of rural livelihoods and an economic necessity. Cattle slaughter has also been opposed by various Indian religions because of the ethical principle of Ahimsa (non-violence) and the belief in the unity of all life.


  • Another illustration of this spirit of exploitation is furnished by the Muslim insistence upon cow-slaughter and the stoppage of music before mosques. Islamic law does not insist upon the slaughter of the cow for sacrificial purposes and no Musalman, when he goes to Haj, sacrifices the cow in Mecca or Medina. But in India they will not be content with the sacrifice of any other animal.
    • B.R. Ambedkar, Pakistan or The Partition of India (1946)
  • Seven of these 22 riots, or roughly one-third of them, occurred on the day of the celebration of the annual Muslim festival of Bakr-i-Id at the end of May. The celebration of this festival is always a dangerous time in Hindu-Muslim relations. The Muslim regard it as a day of animal sacrifice, and as the animal chosen is almost always a cow the slightest tension between the two communities is apt to produce an explosion.
    • B.R. Ambedkar, Pakistan or The Partition of India (1946)
  • A second example of a feature that is widespread but not universal in Hinduism is revulsion at the killing of cows. This is a recurrent theme in friction between Hindus and Muslims. What may be the earliest reference to Muslims in an Indian text correctly ascribes to them the view that there is no sin in eating animals such as cattle. A late twelfth- century poet in the north gives a fanciful explanation of the ugly physical features of a Muslim ambassador in terms of “the vast number of cows he had slain.” A southern poetess describing Muslim maraudings in the second half of the fourteenth century speaks of a river “flowing red with the blood of slaughtered cows.” A Marāṭhī ballad that may date from the seventeenth century tells of a Muslim general who desecrated a Hindu idol and built a mosque in its place: “After the mosque was built,” the ballad continues, “a cow was slaughtered.” Another early ballad describes a particularly obnoxious Muslim— a Rājpūt convert and a voracious cow- eater— who went so far as to order the sacrifice of a pregnant cow. Muslim sources complement this picture. For example, Shaykh Aḥmad Sirhindī (d. 1624) saw the sacrifice of the cow as “one of the most important rites” of Islam in India, precisely because of its offensiveness to Hindus— though wise or weak Muslim rulers would from time to time forbid the practice for just that reason...
    • Cook, Michael - Ancient religions, modern politics _ the Islamic case in comparative perspective-Princeton University Press (2014)
  • Arun Shourie quotes Govind Singh as declaring: 'Let the path of the pure [khâlsâ panth] prevail all over the world, let the Hindu dharma dawn and all delusion disappear. (...) May I spread dharma and prestige of the Veda in the world and erase from it the sin of cow-slaughter.'
    • Khushwant Singh, Arun Shourie, quoted in Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743
  • About this time, I heard of a well known Hindu having been converted to Christianity. It was the talk of the town that, when he was baptized, he had to eat beef and drink liquor, that he also had to change his clothes, and that thenceforth he began to go about in European costume including a hat. These things got on my nerves. Surely, thought I, a religion that compelled one to eat beef, drink liquor, and change one's own clothes did not deserve the name. I also heard that the new convert had already begun abusing the religion of his ancestors, their customs and their country. All these things created in me a dislike for Christianity.
    • Mahatma Gandhi, The Story of My Experiments with Truth. Part I, Chapter 10, Glimpses of Religion
  • Meanwhile, another Tabligh movement had arisen in Haryana under the leadership of Shah Muhammad Ramzan (1769-1825). “He found that the converted Rajputs and Jats… were in no way different from their Hindu counterparts in culture, customs and celebration of religious festivals… Shah Muhammad Ramzan used to sojourn in areas inhabited by such converted Rajputs, dissuade them from practising Hindu rites, and persuade them to marry their cousins (real uncle’s daughters which converts persistently refused to do). They equally detested eating cow’s flesh. To induce them to eat beef, he introduced new festivals like Maryam ka Roza and ‘Rot-bot’. On this day, observed on 17 Rajjab, a ‘pao’ of roasted beef placed on a fried bread was distributed amongst relatives and near and dear ones… Such endeavours ruled out the possibility of reconversion and helped in the ‘Islamization’ of neo-Muslims…”
    • Muhammad Ramzan cited in K.S. Lal, The Legacy of Muslim Rule in India, quoted from (1997). Time for stock taking, whither Sangh Parivar?. Edited by S.R. Goel.
  • A new Muslim invader, Ahmad Shah Abdali, who tried to salvage the Muslim rule, had to give up after several attempts from 1748 to 1767 A.D. His only satisfaction was that he demolished the Harimandir and desecrated the sacred tank with the blood of slaughtered cows, two times in a row. But the Sikh and non-Sikh Hindus rallied round the Khalsa again and again and rebuilt the temple every time.
    • Swarup, Ram, & Goel, S. R. (1985). Hindu-Sikh relationship. (Introduction by S.R. Goel)
  • They first sallied forth in a body of about 500 persons to attack the market place of the village known as Poorwa, where they slaughtered a cow. With the blood of the animal they defiled a Hindu temple. Then they hung up the four quarters (of the cow) in the different parts of the market place. … The village of Laoghatty in the Nadia district was their next object attack. Here they commenced operations by the repetition of the same outrage to the religious feelings of the Hindus which they had committed at Poorwa, viz, the slaughter of a cow in that part of the village exclusively occupied by Hindu residents. … Titu’s party went on increasing and with growing confidence they went on killing cows in different places, making raids on the neighbouring villages, forcing from the raiyats agreements to furnish grain, compelling many of them to profess conformity to the tenets of their sect…
    • About the exploits of Titumir. Narahari Kaviraj, Wahabi And Faraizi Rebels of Bengal, New Delhi, 1982, Pp. 37-38, 43-44, 50-51. Quoted in Goel, Sita Ram (1995). Muslim separatism: Causes and consequences. ISBN 9788185990262
  • Amedahad being inhabited also by a great number of heathens, there are Pagods, or Idol-Temples it it. That which was called the Pagod of Santidas was the chief, before King Auranzeb converted it into a Mosque. When he performed that ceremony, he caused a cow to be killed in the place, knowing very well, that after such an action, the Gentiles according to their Law, could worship no more therein.
    • Description of the temple built by Shantidas Jhaveri. Indian Records Series Indian Travels Of Thevenot And Careri [1] Cited in Harsh Narain, The Ayodhya Temple Mosque Dispute: Focus on Muslim Sources, Appendix VI
  • “Cow-sacrifice in India is the noblest of Islamic practices. The kafirs may probably agree to pay jiziya but they shall never concede to cow-sacrifice.”
    • Ahmad Sirhindi in S.A.A. Rizvi, Muslim Revivalist Movements in Northern India in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, Agra, 1965, pp. 248-249. Quoted from Goel, Sita Ram (1995). Muslim separatism: Causes and consequences. ISBN 9788185990262
  • 'Everywhere in the lanes and bazaars lay the headless trunks of the slain and the whole city was burning. Many buildings had been knocked down. The water of the Jamuna flowing past was of a yellowish color, as if polluted by blood. The man [a Muslim jeweller of the city, robbed of his all and fasting for several days] said that for seven days following the general slaughter the water had turned yellow. At the edge of the stream I saw a number of huts of vairAgis and sannyAsis [i.e., Hindu ascetic], in each of which lay a severed head with the head of a dead cow applied to its mouth and tied to it with a rope round its neck.'
    • Jadunath Sarkar, Fall of the Mughal Empire, Volume II, Fourth Edition, New Delhi, 1991, p.70-71
  • Qasim first asserts the superiority of Islam over the polytheists by committing a taboo (killing a cow) and publicly soiling the idol (giving the cow meat as an offering).
    • Alberuni, quoted in M. Asif. A Book of Conquest. 2016. Also quoted in [2]
  • Al-Bîrûnî records: “A famous idol of theirs was that of Multan, dedicated to the sun, and therefore called Aditya. It was of wood and covered with red Cordovan leather; in its two eyes were two red rubies. It is said to have been made in the last Kritayuga… When Muhammad Ibn Alkasim Ibn Almunabih conquered Multan, he inquired how the town had become so very flourishing and so many treasures had there been accumulated, and then he found out that this idol was the cause, for there came pilgrims from all sides to visit it. Therefore he thought it best to have the idol where it was, but he hung a piece of cow’s flesh on its neck by way of mockery. On the same place a mosque was built. When the Karmatians occupied Multan, Jalam Ibn Shaiban, the usurper, broke the idol into pieces and killed its priests…”
    • About Jalam ibn Shaiban at Multan. Alberuni:Tãrîkhu'l-Hind in E.C. Sachau (tr.), Alberuni’s India, New Delhi Reprint, 1983, p. 116.
  • From thence the King marched towards the mountains of Nagrakote, where he was overtaken by a storm of hail and snow. The Raja of Nagrakote, after sustaining some loss, submitted, but was restored to his dominions. The name of Nagrakote was, on this occasion, changed to that of Mahomedabad, in honour of the late king. Some historians state, that Feroze, on this occasion, broke the idols of Nagrakote, and mixing the fragments with pieces of cows flesh, filled bags with them, and caused them to be tied round the necks of Bramins, who were then paraded through the camp. It is said, also, that he sent the image of Nowshaba to Mecca, to be thrown on the road, that it might be trodden under foot by the pilgrims, and that he also remitted the sum of 100,000 tunkas, to be distributed among the devotees and servants of the temple.
    • Tarikh-i-Firishta, translated into English by John Briggs under the title History of the Rise of the Mahomedan Power in India, 4 Volumes, New Delhi Reprint, 1981. p. 263 Vol I.
  • “On the 1st Rajab 990 [AD 1582] he (Husain Qulî Khãn) encamped by a field of maize near Nagarkot. The fortress (hissar) of Bhim, which is an idol temple of Mahamai, and in which none but her servants dwelt, was taken by the valour of the assailants at the first assault. A party of Rajpûts, who had resolved to die, fought most desperately till they were all cut down. A number of Brahmans who for many years had served the temple, never gave one thought to flight, and were killed. Nearly 200 black cows belonging to Hindûs had, during the struggle, crowded together for shelter in the temple. Some savage Turks, while the arrows and bullets were falling like rain, killed those cows. They then took off their boots and filled them with the blood and cast it upon the roof and walls of the temple.”
    • Tabqãt-i-Akharî by Nizamuddin Ahmad. Jalãlu’d-Dîn Muhammad Akbar Pãdshãh Ghãzî (AD 1556-1605) Nagarkot Kangra (Himachal Pradesh)
  • The Emperor, summoning Muhammad Khalil and Khidmat Rai, the darogha of hatchet-men' ordered them to demolish the temple of Pandharpur, and to take the butchers of the camp there and slaughter cows in the temple' It was done (1705).
    • Aurangzeb. Akhbarat, cited in Sarkar, Jadu Nath, History of Aurangzeb,Volume III, Calcutta, 1972 Impression. p. 186-189., quoted in part in Shourie, Arun (2014). Eminent historians: Their technology, their line, their fraud. Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India : HarperCollins Publishers.
  • The waters of Tambraparni which were once white with sandal paste rubbed away from the breasts of charming girls are now flowing red with the blood of cows slaughtered by the miscreants
    • Gangadevi. On the condition of Madurai under the Muslim rule. Chattopadhyaya, Brajadulal (2006), Studying Early India: Archaeology, Texts and Historical Issues, Anthem Press, ISBN 978-1-84331-132-4
  • Sacrificing cows is definitely in accordance with the requirements of shariah, rules the Fatawa-i-Rizvia. It cites an ayat from the Quran which does not have a word about the cows, .... It goes on to quote several ulema to the effect that slaughtering cows is an essential and long-standing practice of Islam. If Hindus object to the killing of cows on ‘communal grounds’—the grounds of the Hindus, note, are ‘communal’, the grounds of Muslims are spiritual obedience to Allah!—then it is not right for Muslims to refrain from killing cows. In fact, decrees the fatwa, on every occasion Muslims should keep up what has been prevalent in Islam for so long. If they stop it, they shall be sinners. The fatwa goes on reiterating this point, and returns to emphasize again that if the Hindu asks that cow-killing be stopped on account of his religious point of view, then it is not right for Muslims to stop killing the cows. And if the Hindu cites his false faith to have it stopped, then the Muslims must not stop it. And, warns the fatwa, the Islam of those who agree to do what they, the Hindus, are saying is counterfeit. For if you agree to their proposition you will be strengthening their false religion and doing so is not permissible in shariah. The fatwa proceeds to quote the fatwas which had been issued earlier by the ancestors of Abdul Bari and by Abdul Bari himself: that if someone restrains us from sacrificing a cow, then it becomes obligatory to sacrifice it, because we cannot give up our religious work under duress. Those who advocate the contrary to please the polytheists, the fatwa declares, are out to undermine Islam. They are great sinners, they are mufsid, they are amr-bil-haram, they are the enemies of Islam, they are the dacoits of Muslims, they are brothers of the Devil—Shaitan ke bhai, the workers for the Devil—Mis ke karinde, the enemies of truth, the heirs of the hypocrites. Quoting the Quran, the fatwa declares that they shall be consigned to Hell for ever. So much for persons—like Maulana Abdul Bari—who advocate that Muslims give up slaughtering cows. As for anyone who leaves the sacrifice of cows under their influence, the fatwa declares that he too is the enemy of Allah, the worker for Satan, the abandoner of that which is obligatory, and one fit for the fires of Hell. The continuation of the sacrifice of cows and the prohibition against participation in the meetings of Hindus, declares the Fatawa-i-Rizvia a little later, are both among the necessities of religion. He who declares the former haram and the latter halal— as Maulana Abdul Bari was doing, and as, in regard to meetings, Mufti Kifayatullah was doing—is calumnizing Allah and the Prophet. By the ordinances of the Holy Quran, declares the fatwa, his abode is Jahannum, Hell, and it is incumbent to apply the injunction of kufr upon him. And again: to stop sacrificing cows for the sake of Hindus is haram, declares Fatawa-i-Rizvia, citing as authority the Durr-ul-Mukhtar. And he who does what is haram, it pronounces, sets himself up for the torture of Jahannum, of Hell. He who is guilty of that which is kufr in Fiqh is out of Islam, his wives have become haram for him: he must embrace Islam again, he must go through the nikah again if he wants the status quo ante to be restored. And again: it is proper to continue sacrificing cows. To stop doing so out of consideration for Hindus is haram. Unity with Hindus is haram. And the ones who are advocating this unity (it was in the name of unity and, worse, as an expression of gratefulness that Abdul Bari, etc., were advocating that Muslims give up killing cows) ‘are by their own admission sacrificing the entire life of the Quran and Hadis on idolatry’.
    • About rulings of the Shariat and ulema on cow slaughter. Arun Shourie - The World of Fatwas Or The Sharia in Action (2012, Harper Collins)
  • The fatwa (Fatawa-i-Rizvia) goes on reiterating these arguments, the citations, the assertions—paragraph after paragraph, page after page. ... In Hindustan, it continues, cow slaughter is an act that greatly glorifies Islam. By our fatwas we have proven that here the sacrifice of cows is proper and to abandon it out of regard for Hindus is improper. The fatwa strongly condemns those who say that it should be given up—they are guilty of gunah kabira, it declares. It goes on to quote the fatwas issued by Abdul Wahab, by his ustad, Abdul Hai, and by other ulema of Firangi Mahal—pointing out that these are fatwas which have been included in the compilations of Abdul Hai in which he himself declares that to stop cow slaughter out of regard for Hindus is improper, that to continue it is proper. Cow slaughter is the glory of Islam, the fatwa declares, and the unity which is being observed with Hindus is haram, prohibited, it is qatai haram, wholly prohibited. Cow slaughter is the religious right of a Mussalman, it declares, and a right at that which particularly glorifies Islam. To stop it because of polytheists is to glorify the polytheists, while the sacrificing of cows is the glorification of Islam. This theme is reiterated repeatedly. And the Quran says you should make Allah and the Prophet happy—they have a better right that you appease them than the polytheists have ... unity with the Hindus is haram and to stop cow slaughter because of it is haram..., Even this precis of the fatwa is sufficient to show the steps by which something for which there was at best a permission is transformed by the ulema into a religious duty, the steps by which doing the one thing that hurts another the most becomes a matter of principle, a religious right, an Allah- and Prophet-ordained duty. To give it up would be to give up that which is a long-standing practice in Islam. If we yield on this, they will force on us anything. It would be to strengthen the false religion of the polytheists. It would be to abandon religious work under duress. It would be to do that which we are prohibited from doing—namely to honour kafirs. It will be to degrade Islam. On the other hand, to kill cows is to do the thing which particularly glorifies Islam.
    • About rulings of the Shariat and ulema on cow slaughter. Arun Shourie - The World of Fatwas Or The Sharia in Action (2012, Harper Collins)
  • Cow slaughter in India is a great Islamic practice—(said) Mujaddid Alaf Saani II. This was his far-sightedness that he described cow slaughter in India as a great Islamic practice. It may not be so in other places. But it is definitely a great Islamic act in India because the cow is worshipped in India. If the Muslims give up cow slaughter here then the danger is that in times to come the coming generations will get convinced of the piety of the cow.
    • Abul Hasan Ali Hasani Nadwi while addressing Indian and Pakistani pilgrims in Jeddah on 3 April 1986. Maulana Abul Hasan All Nadwi, Zimmedarian aur Ahl-e-watan ke Haquq, Majlis Tehqiqaat o’ Nashrat Islam, Lucknow, 1986. quoted in Arun Shourie - The World of Fatwas Or The Sharia in Action (2012, Harper Collins)
  • The Turkish [Muslim] invaders entered the town making dreadful din and clamor. Orders were issued clear and terrible: `The soldiers shall march into the town spreading terror everywhere! Cut down the Brahmanas [Brahman priests], wherever they may be-performing homa or milking cows! Kill the cows-even those which are pregnant or with newly born calves!"
    • V. S. Bhatnagar, trans., Kanhadade Prabandha (New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan, 1991), p. 49, also quoted in Bostom, A. G. M. D., & Bostom, A. G. (2010). The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims. Amherst: Prometheus. Appendix
  • Peace having been made with the Marathas, Najib-ud-daulah had retired to Wazirabad, 10 kilometres from the city situated on the banks of the Jamuna. The Maratha camp was also located near by. Raghunathrao used to bathe in the Jamuna every morning. His way lay near the camp of Najib-ud-daulah. Cows were slaughtered daily in Najib’s camp. Their blood, bones and skins were lying near the route followed by Raghunathrao and other Brahmans who also bathed there. Raghunathrao felt incensed. He asked Malhar to prevail upon Najib to stop cow-slaughter till he was encamped on the Jamuna. Najib replied: “This is a religious matter and I will never abandon it.”
    • In September 1757, incident between Marathas and the Afghan Najib-ud-daulah quoted in "Marathas And Panipat" also in Jain, M. (2010). Parallel pathways: Essays on Hindu-Muslim relations, 1707-1857.
  • Few Muslims were ready to concede the possibility that the rights of Hindus included the ability to stop cow slaughter. Muharram Ali Chisti, editor of Rafiq-i-Hind (Lahore) and subsequently a Congressman, argued in 1888 that “if Muslims were prevented from kine slaughter merely because the practice was prohibited by Hinduism, the Hindu idols and temples would have to be razed to the ground....
    • Indian nationalism and the early Congress by McLane, John R., 1935- [3] also in Jain, M. (2010). Parallel pathways: Essays on Hindu-Muslim relations, 1707-1857.
  • During the Khilafat movement, Gandhi did what earlier Congress leaders had not dared to do. He appealed to Hindus neither to interfere directly with Muslim cow slaughter nor to attempt to pass laws in their municipalities limiting slaughter. He said that Muslims must be persuaded to abandon slaughter volun¬ tarily. He wrote that while the question of cow protection was “the greatest” facing Hindus, “the only chance Hindus have of saving the cow from the butcher’s knife, is by trying to save Islam from the impending peril [in the Middle East] and trusting their Mussalman countrymen to return nobility, i.e., voluntarily to protect the cow out of regard for their Hindu countrymen. . . . The best and only way to save the cow is to save the Khilafat.”
    • Indian nationalism and the early Congress by McLane, John R., 1935- [4] also in Jain, M. (2010). Parallel pathways: Essays on Hindu-Muslim relations, 1707-1857.

Quotes about the 1966 anti-cow slaughter agitation[edit]

  • In fact, 1967 was the best-ever performance by the Bharatiya Jan Sangh before it merged with the Janata Party. What could have led to this sudden spurt of support for Sanghis? In all probability, it was the 1966 police firing at sadhus and other Hindu activists who were protesting outside the Parliament in Delhi to demand a blanket ban on cow slaughter. While the official records of those killed is very low, the popular claims of those killed range between few hundreds to even thousands. Whatever be the real numbers, the fact that it led to the feeling of ‘Hindus under attack’ among a segment of people, in all probability helped the Jan Sangh in the ensuing elections. Firing on kar sevaks at Ayodhya similarly helped the BJP in the 1991 Lok Sabha elections.
    • Sanghi Who Never Went To A Shakha. Rahul Roushan. Rupa Publications India. 2021.

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