RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat and several other leaders disavowed violence in the name of 'cow vigilantism' at the three-day Hindu Dharma Sansad at Udupi, which culminates on Sunday. However, he reiterated that there was nothing wrong with protecting the cow and that scientific approaches to harnessing the benefits of cow products should be considered.
"Cow protection is a must, but we have to operate in peace," Mohan Bhagwat said.
On the other hand, Pravin Togadia, International Working President of VHP, compared the US legal system which prohibits the slaughter of horses to that of India and questioned why a similar legislation for cows cannot be passed in India.
The Pejawar seer Vishwesha Teertha also extended his support for a nationwide legislation on cow slaughter, and added, "It is not the responsibility of the Union government alone. The state governments must also support such a legislation and impose a ban on cow slaughter."
The comments come in the wake of several attacks by 'cow vigilantes' or 'gow rakshaks' across India, and amidst attempts by the central government to bring in a ban on cattle slaughter by making the sale of cattle for slaughter illegal. In July, the Supreme Court suspended a government notification that would have banned the sale of cattle for slaughter nationwide.
The Congress government in Karnataka however has remained opposed to bans on cow slaughter.
The statements were made at the Hindu Dharma Sansad in Udupi, a three-day festival that culminates with the Vishwa Hindu Samajotsava on Sunday. Udupi was decked in saffron as over 2,000 saints from various sects descended on the temple town.
Organised by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the Sansad is aimed at "reforming the Hindu community", and this year, the participants spoke about cow protection, state control over temples, religious reforms, etc.
Prominent personalities including BJP leader BS Yeddyurappa, Dharmasthala Dharmadhikari Veerendra Heggade and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat took the stage to deliver speeches.
Pravin Togadia, who was banned from entering Udupi district for Hindu Samajotsava in 2015 over fears of provocative speeches, was also in attendance. Questioning the secular position of the constitution, Togadia stated that the government control of temple wealth and affairs is unconstitutional. ‚ÄúThere needs to be an action plan to relieve temples from government regulations,‚ÄĚ he said while addressing the gathering.
Religious reforms in Hinduism
Multiple discussions revolved around the seeming demise of 'Hindu Dharma' with leaders expressing concerns over the lack of reforms within the religion to adapt to current times. During his speech, Dharmasthala Dharmadikari Veerendra Heggade emphasized that the ‚ÄėHindu Dharma‚Äô has become stagnant and urged people to look upon the works of Mahatma Gandhi and BR Ambedkar to reform the Hindu society which could lead to its empowerment.
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat reaffirmed that it is the responsibility of every Hindu to take steps to stop the demise of 'Hindu Dharma'. Swami Nirmalananda said that youth should not just be taught western science but also values of Hinduism so that they can be passed on to the next generation.
All Photographs Courtesy: Adwitiya Shukla
With inputs from The Manipal Journal