Tuesday, August 30th, 2016

What’s wrong with Dalit BJP MP Udit Raj’s tweet on Usain Bolt eating beef?

Jaimon Mathew Varghese | August 30, 2016 10:26 pm Print
At a time when there is immense scrutiny over India's dismal Rio Olympics 2016 performance and when the nation is embroiled with the "beef eating" controversy, BJP parliamentarian Udit Raj's tweet on Athlete Usain Bolt rising from poverty after being asked to consume beef for nutrition to become an Olympic champ has stirred the hornet's nest.
BJP MP Udit Raj

Dalit BJP MP Udit Raj’s tweet has garnered a lot of reactions on Twitter; some negative, some positive. And it’s imperative to mention that he is a Dalit leader because this historically oppressed sect knows what poverty is first hand. So when Udit Raj tweeted that athlete Usain Bolt, who came from an impoverished house, was advised by his trainer to consume beef for nutrition, he knew what a struggle it is for the poor to meet the daily nutritional needs.

Since, Udit Raj, who is a former revenue service officer, has attempted to distance himself from the remark made on the social networking site by stating: “I intended to convey-players & society to look at ways to win in games rather blaming circumstances & Govt & eating is their choice.” It’s a known fact that beef is the cheapest of all forms of meat in India. With his tweet on Usain Bolt, the BJP MP could have possibly aired his genuine views on the matter but later felt the need to retract his statement due to the party’s official stand on the issue.

When you look at the physique of the Indian athletes it becomes clear why the BJP leader may have made the statement; they are not getting the nutrition needed to compete at the top level. Most of the athletes come from economically weak backgrounds from rural India and cannot afford the supplements needed to meet their daily nutritional needs as athletes. So-called social taboos prevent these people to explore other sources of nutrition which they could possibly afford. However, facts show that Indian masses have been consumers of beef irrespective of faith.

A decade ago, the per capita consumption of beef/buffalo in India was 2.8 kg, more double of mutton, pork poultry. Central Government statistics showed that the meat India produces most is beef; the second is buffalo meat and only third is mutton and lamb. Beef and buffalo meat together account for as much as 60 per cent of domestic meat production. The lower strata of society is the largest consumer of beef.

Research has shown that consumption of beef is not actually a foreign concept as is claimed and was not brought into India by the Mughal rulers. The controversial book Holy Cow: Beef in Indian Dietary Traditions by noted historian Prof. D. N. Jha says that few taboos existed on beef in Vedic times. His study of Hindu religious texts and scriptures showed ample evidence of beef-eating in Vedic India. There are other studies as well that show that Hindus used to consume beef like by Wendy Doniger in
The Hindus: An Alternative History, 2009; Mahadev Chakravarti in Beef-Eating in Ancient India Social Scientist, June 1979; and A L Basham in The Wonder That Was India, 1954.

Hence those who criticized Udit Raj for his statement should introspect or propose ways to provide better nutrition to the poor who cannot afford basic nutritional requirement with rising food prices and inflation.

Another point to be noted is that the only medal winners during this edition of the Olympics were the two female athletes who saved the face of a country which has been termed the ‘most dangerous place in world to be born a girl’ by UN and having “one of the highest female infanticide incidents in the world” by Asian Centre for Human Rights. Sakshi Malik and PV Sindhu have won despite Indian govt, not because of it.

Jaimon Mathew Varghese
Jaimon Mathew Varghese