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Facts about beef politics, Congress and the media narrative

With 2019 elections approaching, many media houses and mainstream journalists have started disproportionate highlighting of news around cow-related issues. Unsurprisingly, the clear objective of building such narratives is to influence a section of voters and create resentment against BJP. Earlier, a similar media narrative that squarely blamed Modi government in Gujarat for 2002 riots played an important role in BJP losing 2004 general elections despite a stellar performance by the Vajpayee government.

While the political narrative has to be set by political parties, it is staggering how the media itself has become a tool for propaganda that aide one political party of the other. The mainstream media has continuously peddled a narrative sans facts on the issue of beef ban, and it is incumbent to separate the wheat from the chaff and the facts from the narrative to understand how deep the rot runs.

Narrative:

  • India is the world’s largest exporter of beef despite the ban on cow slaughter

Facts:

  • Meat exported from India is that of water buffaloes.
  • India is world’s largest beef exporter because US Department of Agriculture (USDA) categorizes meat of bovine animals like “buffaloes” under “beef”.
  • While “cow” slaughter is banned in 21 states, there is no such restriction on “buffaloes”.
  • Hence, there is nothing illegal, immoral or hypocritical in India being world’s largest beef exporter.

Detailed CNN Report on India’s beef exports may be referred here.

Narrative:

  • BJP is obsessed with cow related laws while Congress is “liberal” and “secular”

Facts:

  • Cow slaughter ban, which is currently applicable in 21 states was implemented mostly in the period between 1950’s going up to 70’s
  • Laws banning cow slaughter were implemented by various Congress governments in respective states even before BJP came into existence in 1980

Data Source: Cow slaughter in India

  • In 2015, Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh was busy claiming credit for it when the beef ban was perceived as a favorable issue for Bihar elections
  • Congress was even open to extending it to a central ban across entire India
  • Source: EconomicTimes

Interestingly, Congress was happy to claim credit for the beef ban when it was perceived to be a positive factor. Now, a negative narrative has been built by associating violence with cows and the blame for every incident is automatically transferred to BJP.

Congress actually implemented laws banning cow slaughter across the nation and claims to be “secular”. Yet, BJP is projected as the one “trying to control what people eat”.

BJP even after winning elections in North East, respected the eating habits of people and continued focusing on development issues instead of pursuing a law on beef ban. While BJP’s flexibility on this issue deserved admiration, the media projected this as BJP’s hypocrisy. Such is the power of narrative.

Narrative:

  • BJP leaders are defending and supporting mob violence

Facts:

  • Prime Minister himself has condemned violence in the name of cows on multiple occasions. U.P. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has explicitly done the same
  • Quoting some lower rung BJP / RSS leaders out of context does not mean that BJP supports vigilantism
  • Law & Order is a subject of state governments and does not fall under the purview of government in the center. The perpetrators of such crimes have faced trials by courts and punished as per the law

In 2009, Congress leader Kapil Sibal had proudly declared that over 150 media publications were owned by people affiliated with the Congress partyand this machinery would be used to project Rahul Gandhi as India’s next leader in the coming decade.

However, Congress lost power in 2014 and now the machinery is first required to create discontentment with the current regime using the obvious narrative – “BJP Government is anti-minorities”

The issue of mob violence in India cuts across religions. Both the victims and the perpetrators belong to various religions. All loss of lives are deplorable, but selective outrage depending on “a particular”religion of victim is intended to create resentment against the regime. Mob violence is a social issue which is being painted as a religiousone.

The role of the media is to present facts to its viewers so they can make informed decisions, whether political or otherwise. The media has summarily failed to do its job and outsourced fact-checking to its readers. While rhetoric may be the hallmark of political discourse, one surely wouldn’t have expected media houses to turn into political mouthpieces.

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Shashank Goyal
IIM-A alumnus, Software Sales Professional, Writes about business, economy and politics; Passionate about numbers, facts and analysis Tweets @shashankgoyal01

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