Holy Cow! Beef Ban, Political Technologies, and Brahmanical Supremacy in Modi’s India
This article focuses on political technologies applied in response to India’s contemporary beef ban and ensuing violence. The beef ban, enacted in several Indian states, prevents the slaughter, consumption, and trade of cow meat. Aided by rising Hindu nationalism, the enforcement of this ban has occurred through state and extra-state entities, the latter of which is constituted by cow vigilante groups. Such enforcement – often based on “suspicion” of cow meat possession – has resulted in horrific violence, including arrests, beatings, and lynchings of individuals belonging primarily to Muslim and Dalit communities. In response to the beef ban and associated violence, political technologies like beef detection kits and cattle unique-identification numbers are being introduced. We examine these technologies and accompanying discourse to analyze their role in producing hierarchies. We show the symbolic role of the “sacred” cow in justifying cow protectionism and vigilantism, and how such rhetoric works to objectify cows and obscure violence they face during life and death, while panoptically governing human populations. We analyze how political technologies employed under the beef ban exacerbate marginality of oppressed populations across the human-nonhuman spectrum. We contend these technologies normalize the ideology underpinning the beef ban, heighten and atomize surveillance of marginalized groups, and weaken their already-fraught place in the nation. Within the landscape of perilous Hindu nationalism, we show how a mutual avowal lens can help recognize shared vulnerability and proffer ethical forms of engagements between entangled subject positions.
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