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Thursday, 9 August, 2001, 16:39 GMT 17:39 UK
Beef book sparks Hindu protest
Cows in India
Cows are revered by Hindus
By Jyotsna Singh in Delhi

Hardline Hindu groups in India have strongly protested against the publication of a book which says that ancient Indians ate beef.

A spokesman for the right-wing Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) alleged that the motive behind the book was to insult Hindus, who revere cows as part of their religion.

Revivalist forces [are] raking up mindless disputes

Academic Pushpesh Pant
But experts say the book only adds to existing evidence that beef was widely eaten in India hundreds of years ago.

The author of the book, Holy Cow: Beef in Indian Dietary Traditions, told the BBC that he was seeking legal advice to ensure that it could be published soon.

Professor DN Jha says he has been warned of a court case in Hyderabad which seeks to prevent the book from being published.

Two religious groups, the All Jain Sewak Sangh and the All Gowd Sangh, are said to have sought the ban because they argue that the book damages their faith.

Historical evidence

According to the author, the controversy was sparked off by a preview of the book published on an Indian website last month.

Fast food stall in Bombay
Hindus generally do not eat beef
Professor Jha stumbled upon the facts relating to the presence of beef in pre-Islamic Vedic India two years ago, while researching Indian dietary habits.

He says there is plenty of historical evidence to support the theory.

An ancient Hindu text, the Manusmriti (200BC to 200AD), lists the cow as one of several animals whose meat can be eaten.

A mention is also made, he says, in one of the two great Indian epics - the Mahabharata - which speaks of beef being a delicacy served to esteemed guests.

'Mindless dispute'

A spokesman for the VHP alleged that the book was aimed at insulting Hindus. But experts argue that there is no basis for any controversy, as the book states something that is already a well known fact among historians.

A leading academic, Pushpesh Pant, said that the issue had been put to rest by scholars many years ago and that there were a number of historical and mythological texts which support this argument.

Mr Pant accused "revivalist forces of raking up mindless disputes".

Modern Indians, he said, were concerned about more pressing needs such as health and the economy.

Professor DN Jha of Delhi University
was asked how common beef-eating was among the Indians of ancient times
See also:

12 Feb 01 | South Asia
Militant Hindu Valentine threat
04 May 01 | South Asia
No beef in McDonald's fries
20 Oct 99 | South Asia
Hardline Hindus rally against Pope
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