Hindus campaign to protect sacred cow

15 August 2003

Seeking to gain support ahead of a series of state elections, India's Hindu ruling party is campaigning to protect the cow from commercial exploitation, saying it defiles the sacred animal. Although India is largely respectful of the cow, there is a thriving underground cattle trade and, now, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party has tabled a bill to ban the slaughter in all states. In a further move, the government is under pressure from its fundamentalist members to ban all leathergoods and halt the lucrative export of beef to the Gulf states. The issue has long been one of India's most controversial subjects and has been brought to the fore once again by state elections to be held this year in Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. These are widely seen as a warm-up for next year's general election. Source: Rahal Bedi, New Delhi, writing for the Daily Telegraph

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