The Myth of the Holy Cow

From: Joe Dees (
Date: Mon Jan 21 2002 - 01:00:46 GMT

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    ('binary' encoding is not supported, stored as-is) Cow controversy divides Hindus

    Vanessa Thorpe, arts correspondent
    Sunday January 20, 2002
    The Observer

    Britain's Hindu community is braced for the publication of a controversial
    book that has already been banned in India after it was compared to Salman
    Rushdie's Satanic Verses.
    The Myth of the Holy Cow is to be published in Britain this spring. The
    work, by the Indian historian Dwijendra Narayan Jha, has divided Hindu
    communities and been burned outside the author's home.

    'There is a very strong Hindu fundamentalist organisation in Britain,' said
    Tariq Ali, who has commissioned the book for the British publishers, Verso.
    'As soon as I read this brilliant study I felt it should be read here too.
    The only thing is to fight back and not hide away.'

    In his book, which was first published in India last summer, the Delhi
    University professor proves that beef, which is taboo for Hindus, was once a
    part of the ancient Indian diet and has not always been held sacred.

    His argument, backed by early texts, has inflamed religious and political
    feeling and even prompted a court in the city of Hyderabad to ban the book.
    More extraordinarily still, the Hindu government's 'cow protection wing' has
    demanded his arrest. Not since Salman Rushdie's book Satanic Verses provoked
    fundamentalist Islamic leaders to issue a fatwa calling for the author's
    death in 1989, has a book caused such a violent reaction.

    Jha, who has received death threats in India since the publication of his
    book, has not yet decided whether to travel to Britain to promote the launch
    of his book in April. 'I am like a man in red clothes and surrounded by mad
    bulls. I have to find an escape,' he has said.

    Although Jha's historical research is likely to be disputed by some Hindu
    groups in Britain, his publishers over here hope that opponents of the book
    will avoid the threatening tactics adopted in India.

    Jha, who is a vegetarian, says he is happy for the cow to be protected but
    does not see why only this animal should be escape slaughter.

    'It is not my intention to hurt anybody's religious sensibilities,' Jha has
    said. 'I thought I should write something on the history of the sanctity of
    the cow. Fundamentalist forces try to associate abstention from beef with
    Hinduism. As a historian I don't believe in the sanctity of the cow.'

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