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India's cow politics

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NEW DELHI (Reuters) - For Hindus, the cow has long been holy. In ancient scriptures, it is celebrated for its ability to nurture humanity and is compared to deities.

During Modi’s Hindu nationalist administration, the cow has taken on additional political significance. In his campaign for office, Modi referred to the danger of a “pink revolution” under the relatively liberal Congress party, the domain of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty.

It was a play on Congress’ “green revolution,” under which agricultural output increased, suggesting the party had allowed the production and export of meat including beef to surge.

Those in hardline Hindu groups supporting Modi frequently complain that Congress and its allies looked the other way when it came to illegal cow slaughter operations run by Muslims to gain favor with that community at the polls.

Two spokespeople for Congress did not respond to questions from Reuters.

In May, Modi’s government banned the trade of cattle for slaughter. The measure mostly affected the buffalo industry, as killing cows for meat was already forbidden in most states. But the move was seen by many Muslims as a ploy to further squeeze them out of the multibillion dollar beef and leather industry, which employs millions in India.

India’s Supreme Court in July suspended the government measure, effectively lifting the ban on the trade of buffalo for slaughter.

Edited by Peter Hirschberg and Paritosh Bansal.