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India’s cow science exams encroach on securalism

By Raymond Dai and Natalie Gao Feb. 3, 2021

Nicole Kim Art

On Feb. 25, India will hold a nationwide optional hour-long online “cow science” exam open to children, adults and foreigners as part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s push towards Hindu nationalism. Despite sparking opposition from those who see the move as an erosion of India’s secularism, the test will consist of 100 multiple-choice questions regarding different cow breeds and their religious and medical significance.

The Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog (RKA), an agency for the protection of cows under the Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying encourages people to take the test and educate themselves about cows, going as far as to offer certificates and prizes for all who take the exam. They will be distributed in Hindi, English and twelve other languages, with the Modi government also investing millions of dollars in cow protection programs and research. However, study guides include claims like slaughtering cows can cause earthquakes and drinking cow urine benefits overall health, leading to questions regarding the reliability of the exams.

Opponents of Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have criticized the move. Priyank Kharge, a member of the Indian National Congress Party, claimed that the BJP has ignored far more pressing concerns stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic to instead explore “cow science.” Sujatro Ghosh, a photographer and local activist, called the exam “a tool to divide people” and manufacture distrust.

“Even as a Hindu, I believe creating this exam for an entire nation with people of many religions is Modi’s attempt to promote Hindu nationalism. There is a fine line between church and state that should not be crossed” Sophomore Kimaya Saijpal said.

This rise of religious nationalism aligns with Modi’s 2014 election campaign where he promised to end the killing of cows in India and threatened violence against people who disrespected cows. Since Prime Minister Modi and the BJP rose to dominance, cow protection laws have been established as part of a larger wave of Hindu nationalist legislation to promote Hinduism, like the criminalization of killing cows and eating beef. These laws have emboldened people to attack communities who traditionally eat beef, such as Muslims and low-caste Hindus, without repercussions, according to Cable News Network.

Although India is an officially secular and culturally diverse state, the Modi administration has taken several other steps to promote Hindu nationalism. Al Jazeera reports that the BJP-controlled state of Karnataka strengthened its cow protection law to allow police to search and arrest anyone suspected of cow slaughter without a warrant. In 2019, the Indian Parliament passed the Citizenship Amendment Act, which allows for a quicker citizenship process for religious minorities except for Muslisms, and political leaders have also repealed the autonomy of Kashmir, a Muslim-majority region in India, which caused massive protests in the region.

“Modi using this exam to educate people on the religious significance of the cow clearly shows he is pushing Hindu beliefs into the forefront while still claiming to be the leader of a ‘secular’ nation. India is very culturally diverse, with people following Islam, Sikhism, Christianity and Buddhism, but India does not conduct studies on anything these religions hold dear. Modi is choosing to make Hinduism outshine the other religions, which could increase tensions between different minority groups,” Freshman Imran Shaikh said.


About the Contributors

Raymond Dai

Staff Writer

Raymond Dai is a sophomore at Leland High School and a Staff Writer for the Charger Account. He likes to play video games, play badminton and go out biking in his free time.

Natalie Gao

Staff Writer

Natalie Gao is a sophomore at Leland High School and a staff writer. She likes playing Tetris and making mac and cheese in her free time.

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