When one thinks of the countries without a separation of church and state, countries like Israel, Iran, Saudi Arabia and others come readily to mind. It is often easy to forget that India struggles with the same issue as many call for the enforcement of core Hindi values. That was on display in Mewat, India when police raided roadside food stalls to confiscate beef and arrest anyone guilty of slaughtering a cow or selling the meat. This is a new local ordinance and violators can face 10 or 5 years respectively in jail.
Police reportedly picked beef out of rice dishes in their raid and investigation. The new law is in line with the Hindu-centric policies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. Modi has called for greater protection of India’s Hindu identity and he has been criticized for eroding secular principles. India has secular traditions but they have often come into conflict with religious dogma and Modi has stirred religious sentiments in his call for greater enforcement of religious dogma. He is viewed much like Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoganwho dismantled the only true secular Islamic country and has imposed authoritarian measures on the population.
Muslims have been attacked in India and even killed over allegations that they have slaughtered cows, a sacred animal for Hindu followers. Civil libertarians charge that the raids are targeting non-Hindus and creating a hostile environment for religious minorities. Modi has been accused of supporting vigilantes attacking Muslims.
Modi is moving his country backward in pursuing a government that enforces religious dogma. As India emerges as a technological and science leader, it is an effort to embrace popular but discriminatory practices. Like Erdogan, it is always popular to appeal to religious values to excite a population but it is far more difficult to control those passions as religious minorities are targeted by the faithful.