DIMAPUR, JANUARY 6: There is a palpable excitement in the air in Nagaland, a small state in India’s North East. While homes and hearths were abuzz with animated chatter throughout the day, the excitement has by late Wednesday evening spilled out on the roads with queues already forming outside outlets that sell beef.
The sudden outburst of joy is being attributed to statement made earlier in the day by Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog (RKA) chairman Vallabhbhai Kathiria. “Cow is full of science…” Kathiria said on Wednesday while announcing a nationwide voluntary online examination on cow science next month. According to the RKA chairman, the examination – Kamdhenu Gau-Vigyan Prachar-Prasar Pareeksha – will be held on February 25.
Examination season is round the corner and parents of children gearing up for Nagaland Board and University Exams are particularly thrilled. Naro, whose son (she herself confesses) is “goru-pakhana matha” (cow-dung brained) is apparently “ill-prepared” for his Class 10 exams. “I was worried, but today I am a happy mother. My son is really bad in Science subject; we were sure he would fail in the subject in his Board exams.” Naro says her whole family burst out in celebration after her husband read out the news about Kathiria’s Cow is full of science statement. “My son loves beef and has been gorging on it during the Christmas season. Now he will surely pass in Science subject. I am going to ensure that we don’t eat any other meat but beef till his exams are over.”
The excitement is not just limited to upcoming Board exams and beef dishes for many open-minded and ambitious parents. Many are excited over the announcement of nationwide examination on cow science. “I am going to register all my children for the exam on cow science. We regularly consume beef and my sons and daughters can distinguish and identify all portions of cow meat. They can score high on cow anatomy,” says an exhilarated Bokato. According to reports, many Naga parents are already negotiating with butchers (who sell beef) for hiring them to teach their children about the various portions of beef.
The Angami Naga folks are claiming that their children would have the edge over children from other tribes. “Beef entrails (intestines) are gourmet food for Angamis. Galho (a preparation made out of a mix of veggies, rice and essentially beef intestine) is our staple food. If cows are full of science, we delve deep in our daily cuisine of beef intestines.”
Reports coming from various parts of Nagaland confirm that people are pitching tents, braving the severe cold, outside outlets selling beef. The shops selling bovine meat open go into business as early as 4 a.m. in Nagaland, and cow offal which has a high demand is sold out within an hour. Demand for Pork, which is considered the Nagas’ favorite meat, and is synonymous with Naga cuisine, is expected to dip to an all-time low in the coming months.
Meanwhile, along with the excitement, there is a whiff of growing distrust in Nagaland’s air. Nagas are looking at their otherwise valued Bengali neighbors with suspicion and resentment. “We have always considered the Bengalis as intelligent and considered fish as their source of intelligence. How come they didn’t know that the cow is full of science,” questioned a middle-aged Naga man whose neighbours are largely Bengalis. But the cause of apparent resentment goes deeper. A 52-year old Naga bureaucrat on conditions of anonymity said: “During my entire period of stay in Calcutta for higher education, I have heard my Bengali friends using the term Goru (Bengali for cow) as an insult, basically referring to a moron, or stupid person. Even in Nagaland, one can hear Bengali parents shouting Gorur Baccha (offspring of cow) at their kids for some stupid act. Then tell me, should I understand that our Bengali friends have been hiding the truth about the potential of cows from us. Or have they been living in absolute ignorance all these decades?”
The bovine creature had become a hot topic of discourse in Nagaland after BJP came to power in the Centre in 2014 and Naga leader Neiphiu Rio’s regional party had joined hands with the saffron party. Later in 2017, during the elections, there was widespread disgruntlement in the North East India over BJP’s ban on beef. But while slaughter of cows and consumption of beef became fatal issues in North and West India, the BJP changed its tune in North East. The states of the North East India have large tribal and Christian populations. Cow slaughter is not banned in Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura, and Manipur too consumes beef. The then Nagaland BJP chief Visasolie Lhoungu in an interview to a national daily had also assured: “Ban on cow slaughter like the one in UP won’t take effect in Nagaland if our party comes to power…” BJP is currently a major stakeholder in the Ruling alliance in Nagaland.
Tuesday’s statement by Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog chairman Vallabhbhai Kathiria is expected to again open the discourse around (arguably) a “bold” statement by a Naga beauty pageant winner in 2019, which created quite a flurry on social media. The Miss Kohima beauty pageant runner-up was asked what would she tell PM Narendra Modi if she were invited for a chat with him. In response, she had said she would ask him to “focus more on women instead of cows”.
(Disclaimer: This is purely a work of satire. No bovine creatures have been harmed in the course of crafting of this satire piece.)