When we wrote, “The cow is a four-footed, domestic animal” in school, or fed it gourds and brinjals during Bihu, we never thought that it could become such a controversial topic, years later.
Cut to 2017 and the cow is Breaking News. Probably, the only ones getting as many web hits as the Indian cow are Donald Trump, Sunny Leone and Kim Jong Un. The cow is quite a dear animal, no doubt; but then, most animals and birds are if you attach them to you. Yet, the cow is an animal we chose to give precedence to others. If we had chosen lambs instead, Nihari would have been an illicit dream. Since many Indian festivals are somehow attached to cow worship, the slaughter of cows would undoubtedly foster trouble. More so, because Indian religious identities are always at risk of picking up a fight.
The bigger animal does offer opportunity, both for fertilisation and furore. While arguing over it is quickly becoming Joey’s Moo Point, there is, apparently, no other way to prove one’s claim to this country. Love cow, Indian; Eat cow, anything but. Even if you are impervious to the rising indignation against cow slaughter, either because of your crazy work schedule or because you’re Vegan, you could be named an anti-(psst!you-know-what).
While an endangered global minority (but national majority) is fighting infiltration and land claims with beef ban, here in Assam, we’re still recovering from a lie that theoretically expelled ‘foreigners who came to Assam on or after March 25, 1971’. Assam has been witness to an armed insurgency which permeates the cultural mainstream every time Zubeen sings Hindi songs in Bihu. But the greatest Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder it is troubled by is the spectre of infiltration post-1971 that it chose to remain silent about for years. The Keramat Bhai-s took over Assam’s borders, making homes on hyacinths, feeding vegetables to a languid populace, and shuttling between two countries by greasing palms through the barbed wires. The political authority of another era didn’t realise that the vote bank could also cling onto your life stream and make you raise questions of identity later. Now, we have syndicates over vegetable production and whatnot, and all we can look toward is a Keramat Bhai. As the joke goes, “You drink milk from their cows in the morning, eat their vegetables and fish for lunch, stuff a betel nut from their plantation and then get up to say — Let’s go chase some m***s!”
For people who still feel Indian without jumping into the jingoistic fire, though, sustaining a life without hyperbolic political drama is getting nearly impossible. To top it all, the NRC procedure is taking aeons. I hope, like the matriculation answer sheets, the NRC documents haven’t been eaten by…
(Pause. Realisation. Morbid Pause.)