Traveling in India, I find many of the same issues that occupy our chattering classes in America — abortion, church and state battles, the homeless — are also part of the national conversation of the world’s largest democracy, albeit with an Indian accent.
I discovered this not through that time honored practice of hack journalists (and Tom Friedman), that is, talking to the cab driver on the way to the hotel from the airport. No, my fact-finding mission consists of reading the newspaper over morning coffee in the Lord Mountbatten Suite at Jaipur’s elegant Sujan Rajmahal Palace.
It was there that the Times of India informed me that while America’s Democrats are working to weaken laws against abortion, India’s politicians are considering strengthening them. That’s because the ratio of newborn boys versus girls continues to widen despite a law banning sex selective abortions. The Very Serious People of India fear the law is not working and want stronger enforcement.
While there’s no war on Christmas, our perennial debate over separation of church and state is raging across the subcontinent. Of course, disputes over religion are nothing new here. Today’s map reflects the 1947 partition of Muslim majority Pakistan and Hindu majority India, an event that occurred amidst bloody sectarian riots.
But riots don’t tell the whole story. India is a living encyclopedia of faiths, from the Hindus who worship a kaleidoscope of thousands of deities to Buddhists who have no deity at all. In between you’ll find fire worshipping Parsis, monotheistic turbaned Sikhs who revere their holy book, the uber-PETA vegetarian Jain who won’t even eat root vegetables lest earthworms be harmed in the production, and garden variety Christians and Jews. Not to mention countless subsects of all of the above.
The existence, and for most part peaceful coexistence, of all these faiths could be seen as a testament to a universal truth that finds expression in various creeds. It would be an understatement (as well as a cliché) to say religion is woven into Indian society and culture. Religion is the loom India’s culture is woven on.
Now India’s Supreme Court is considering a petition to ban Hindu prayers in state run schools. “Does mandatory recital of Hindu shlokas ‘asato ma sadgamaya’ (from falsehood lead me to truth) and ‘Om saha navavatu’ (may God protect and nourish us) … violate the fundamental right to religion of minorities?” the Times of India reported, adding the petitioner’s claim it also violates the rights of atheists.
Only a buzzkill would object to the sentiment expressed in those prayers. Who wouldn’t wish to be led from darkness into light? Who doesn’t want protection and nourishment?
As India hurtles into the future, many of its 1.3 billion inhabitants fear its traditional culture is being sacrificed to the gods of globalism. Will this fertile soil for faiths survive secularists’ scorched earth policies that have marginalized and decimated religion in the West and replaced it with a barren faith in legalism?
While Los Angeles is looking more and more like Delhi where the homeless live on sidewalks, roadsides and wherever they can squat, Indian politicians have begun to address the problem.
They are targeting their efforts toward the priority homeless — cows.
Cattle are seen wandering the streets of India’s cities and villages, large and small. Modern businessmen will pause in their daily pursuits to feed these animals holy to the Hindu in order to gain blessings in a gesture of devotion.
Now, with an election approaching, politicians hope to curry favor with the devout, if not the gods themselves. So they are devoting tax money to build shelters for the aged bovines that can no longer give milk and are abandoned.
California Democrats want to stick Golden State businesses with the tab for their help-the-homeless schemes. India’s pols have imposed a surcharge on imported liquor sold at hotels and restaurants to pay for their aid to rootless ruminants.
This clever levy milks foreign companies and their bibulous customers, two groups that find few local defenders. While Muslims make up 14 percent of the population and don’t care about cows, they care even less for alcohol, which is forbidden by their faith. They won’t be hit by the tariff. If they are, they can’t admit it to their neighbors.
But there’s an utterly ugly side to cow politics. In America, AOC and her Green New Deal charge farting cows with destroying the planet’s ecosystem. Indian rustlers accused of slaughtering stray cows are charged with violating the National Security Act.
The accused might have gotten off easy. Unsubstantiated allegations of bovine abuse are enough to instigate vigilante mob action. This mass hysteria — call it the #MooToo movement — takes a murderous tack, different in degree but not type than the reaction of media (social and otherwise) lynch mobs in America. That has led an official of the Congress Party, the equivalent of our Democrats, to denounce verdict-first, evidence-never vigilantes. It would be nice if our Democrats followed suit.
All these controversies are backdrop and atmospherics for the upcoming national election in which the populist head of state faces a disorganized opposition and is widely anticipated to be returned to power, much to the consternation of the uniparty establishment.
That would be Prime Minister Narendra Modi, popularly known as India’s Donald Trump.
Curtis Ellis is senior policy adviser with America First Policies. He was a senior policy adviser with the Donald J. Trump campaign.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.