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In the Name of the Cow

India | Religion & Society

ABOUT A DECADE AGO when my article headlined “The Missionary Position” appeared on the editorial page of the Indian Express, I got a call from Javed Anand to inquire whether the headline was given by a particular colleague to which I replied in the affirmative. My colleague in question is now with the India Today Group and had a knack for giving catchy headlines.

When I gave the article to him for a headline, he promptly came up with “The Missionary Position” and asked me whether it was okay. Since the article dealt with the charge that the Christians doing social work in the villages were indulging in proselytization, I found the headline fine. He also asked me whether I knew the meaning of the phrase.

It was at that point that I checked the dictionary and found that the “missionary position” also meant “a position for sexual intercourse in which a woman and a man lie facing each other with the woman on the bottom and the man on the top”. Since the article had nothing to do with lovemaking and explained the fallacy of the charge against Christians, I allowed the headline to appear.

I had yet another reason to clear the headline. If some people found the headline titillating and read the article for its erotic value, it only helped me to reach a wider readership. I remembered my own headline for a small UNI story that had emanated from Jagdalpur, headquarters of the erstwhile Bastar district of Madhya Pradesh, which was larger than the Kerala state.

A woman bootlegger was arrested for “dispensing” the heady stuff at a village market. She was found hiding the bottles in her loose blouse-like dress. I gave the little story the headline “Bar in the Bra” and put it in a box on the front page. Headlines should, in fact, attract the reader. The colleague in question had once given the headline “The Khomeinist threat from the Mutt” to an article I had written about the Kanchi Shankaracharya.

Needless to say, Javed Anand is a perceptive writer, whom I always read. His article “Using the cow” (The Indian Express, January 5) is a brilliant exposition of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s real intention in enacting the Gau-Vansh Vadh Pratishedh (Sanshodhan) Act to protect the “cow and its progeny”. Surprisingly, it got the Presidential assent.

Laws to protect the cow are as old as the Republic. The Directive Principles of the Constitution specifically asks the state “to take steps… for prohibiting slaughter of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle”. It is a different matter that the same Directive Principles also ask the state to develop the “scientific temper” among the people and enforce prohibition.

Before and after Independence, slaughter of cows was the provocation for hundreds of Hindu-Muslim riots in the country. It has always puzzled me how a person, who wants to save the cow from the butcher, does not mind killing the butcher, who would have easily taken up another better-paying job, if it was offered to him.

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