Tue. Mar 21st, 2023

India’s state-run Animal Welfare Board has urged residents to rejoice “Cow Hug Day” on Feb. 14 this yr as an alternative of Valentine’s Day. In an official assertion launched Wednesday, the federal government division referred to as cows the “spine” of Indian tradition and rural economic system, saying that “hugging cows will carry emotional richness and enhance particular person and collective happiness.” It added that hugging cows would assist counter the risk posed to Vedic traditions—which stem from the traditional non secular Hindu texts of the Vedas—that confronted “close to extinction” due to Westernization.

The transfer marks one of many few instances {that a} state entity has come out so forcefully towards Valentine’s Day. In recent times, Hindu hardliners had gone so far as raiding retailers in addition to burning playing cards and presents, the Related Press reported.

The assertion has sparked robust reactions on social media. “Unclear whether or not bovine consent is required however you’ll discover out, little doubt,” one Twitter consumer joked, a nod to questions over how the Animal Welfare Board’s plea will go down among the many wider public.

Why does the Indian authorities need its residents to hug cows?

Many religious Hindus consider that in Vedic Aryan custom, the cow is a sacred animal to be worshiped as a result of, to them, it represents Mom Earth. Because the assertion from the Animal Welfare Board reads, the cow’s “nourishing nature” is the “giver of all offering riches to humanity.”

However India has not all the time hooked up such significance to the animal. In his guide The Fable of the Holy Cow, historian D.N. Jha argues that the cow’s sanctity is a comparatively current custom by a group whose tradition is “typically imagined as threatened by Muslims.” Extra importantly, he writes, “the cow has tended to turn into a political instrument within the palms of rulers over time.”

Whereas India has traditionally pushed secularism and variety with seven totally different main religions, Hindus comprise almost 80% of the nation’s 1.4 billion individuals. Within the final decade, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Get together’s majoritarian agenda, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has led religious Hindu followers to argue that the celebration of romance on Valentine’s Day goes towards conventional Indian values.

Lecturers be aware that by 2014, a interval of “saffronization”—the place Hindu nationalist supporters started sporting the orange hue historically worn by Hindu monks—was properly underway in India. Throughout this time, vigilante teams started patrolling the streets to implement Hindu ethical codes, which included stopping the slaughter of cows by non-Hindu butchers and harassing {couples} for holding palms in public or celebrating Valentine’s Day.

Modi has not expressed his assist for such radical techniques. Nevertheless, the BJP’s insurance policies expressly refuse to uphold secular values.

Learn Extra: How a Historic March May Revive India’s Opposition Motion

How has India celebrated Valentine’s Day prior to now?

Within the early Nineteen Nineties, Valentine’s Day started to soar in reputation as India underwent a sequence of financial liberalization insurance policies, which led to the rise of a brand new Indian center class with spending energy, and the buying of presents and playing cards from worldwide manufacturers like Hallmark and Indian shops like Archie’s. Valentine’s Day has additionally featured closely in Bollywood rom-coms like Dil to Pagal Hai.

Right this moment, younger Indian {couples}, particularly in city cities like Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore, will usually rejoice Valentine’s Day by gifting one another balloons and candies, spending time collectively in public parks, cinemas and eating places, or going to Valentine’s Day-themed events. One tech platform reported that Indians spent anyplace between $100 to $200 million {dollars} on Valentine’s Day presents and experiences in 2020 alone.

Nevertheless, such celebrations have additionally been met with fierce opposition from Hindu hardliners, who lately have shaped anti-Valentine’s Day squads that concentrate on individuals celebrating the vacation. In a notable incident in 2009, one group within the southern state of Mangalore assaulted ladies for being out with males in a pub. In 2020, one other group issued a discover in Delhi stating that any couple caught participating within the prison act of “obscenity” could be “handed over to the police.”

In 2018, the BJP as soon as once more tried to shift the emphasis from celebrating romance on Valentine’s Day to celebrating one’s dad and mom by introducing the Matra-Pitra Diwas or “Mom-Father Day.” Within the northern state of Rajasthan, the choice was overturned by the state authorities, with the state’s schooling minister stating that “worshipping [the parents] shouldn’t be restricted to any single day.”

How are Indians reacting to Cow Hug Day?

Because the Animal Welfare Board launched its assertion, many Indians have taken to Twitter to put up feedback, memes, and movies in response to the information.

Whereas some have shrugged off the assertion as mere leisure, others have additionally expressed their assist on-line. “What’s the problem ? If individuals can rejoice happiness with animals like cat and canine so why not with cow ? [sic],” one Twitter consumer posted.

Others reacted with extra subversive feedback. “The world goes to be a a lot safer place for Indian ladies on Feb 14th with the Bhakt armies going to hug cows,” posted one other consumer, a reference to the prevalence of gendered violence instigated by vigilante teams.

Both approach, no matter Indians really feel about Valentine’s Day, many agree that the Animal Welfare Board’s strategy dangers overreach. As Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, a political analyst, informed the Related Press, the attraction is “completely loopy and defies logic.”

“This exhibits an eraser of yet one more line between the state and faith, which could be very miserable. Now the state is doing what political and spiritual teams have been campaigning to do,” Mukhopadhyay added.

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