Sometime in the 1950s in America, the phrase 'don't have a cow' was born. It was a metaphorical warning of sorts, about not getting too worked up about something. It's an interesting phrase to repeat at the moment, considering the Madhya Pradesh Cow Slaughter Prohibition (Amendment) Act 2010 has been granted Presidential assent after a two-year wait.
According to the Act, killing a cow in that state now carries a seven-year jail term. The onus will be squarely on an accused to prove he or she did not do it. That's not all; even transporting a cow outside the state for slaughter has been made punishable. In other words, the Madhya Pradesh government is having a cow.
It makes sense for the state to be touchy about the subject. Riots broke out in one of its tehsils called Ganj Basoda a decade ago, after the VHP alleged that cows were being secretly slaughtered there. The outpouring of anger that followed helped the BJP come to power then. In a battle between what makes sense and what makes political sense, we all know what wins.
The latest move will be difficult for a lot of people to swallow because it means the government has a say in what those who live in a particular part of the country must eat. Will they force mutton or pork off menus next? Will some states insist on veganism within their borders? These are absurd and frightening possibilities.
What makes India incredible is its inclusive nature. We have long learned to adapt and accept. When faced with something we don't necessarily understand, we learn to adjust. This is what makes the phrase 'unity in diversity' such an apt description of what we are. It is something the government of Madhya Pradesh appears to have forgotten.