Scientists ridicule Modi’s Hindu nationalist government for promoting religious pseudoscience about cows: Report

Indian government established the National Cow Commission with the express purpose of protecting cows


NEW YORK, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government postponed plans for a national student examination on cows that critics said used spurious claims and substituted religion for science, according to a leading American newspaper.


Indian students were preparing hard for the big test on cows, reading that India’s cows have more emotions than foreign ones, and that their humps have special powers, The New York Times said in a report from New Delhi published Tuesday.


But facing widespread ridicule, it said the government abruptly postponed the first exam based on a new curriculum, pushed by Modi’s government.


Students at public universities and public schools had been asked to brush up on material that scientists and others dismissed as baseless, accusing the government of promoting religious pseudoscience about cows, which Hinduism considers sacred, to unwitting students, the Times said.


Critics said that the curriculum, devised by the National Cow Commission set up by Modi’s government, was an especially bold move by his ruling party to push its ideology and undercut the secularism that is enshrined in India’s Constitution but seems to be increasingly imperiled with each passing day.


“This is very weird, this exam,” Komal Srivastava, an official for the India Knowledge and Science Society, a nonprofit educational group, was quoted as saying in the report. “They can say anything about cows: that radiation is reduced by its dung, which is unscientific.


If we want to teach kids about cows, it has to be scientific knowledge and not mythology.”


Since Modi came to power in 2014, his party has embarked on a steady, intense and divisive campaign to make India more of an overtly Hindu state, it was pointed out.


Government bodies have rewritten textbooks, lopping out sections on Muslim rulers. They have changed official place names to Hindu from Muslim. And a little more than a year ago, the Parliament passed a citizenship law that openly discriminated against Muslims, provoking searing nationwide protests that lasted until Covid-19 hit.


Cows have become a special flash point, the Times highlighted, adding that since Modi came to power, Hindu nationalist lynch mobs have killed dozens of people in the name of protecting cows. The victims are usually Muslims or other members of minorities, and the killers often get away.


Many academics see the fact that a government body tried to push a curriculum on cows — one that included many completely unsubstantiated claims — as evidence that the government has increasingly fallen under the sway of Hindu supremacist groups like the R.S.S., in which Modi and many top officials were once active.


In 2019, Modi’s government established the National Cow Commission with the express purpose of protecting cows. Its website lists, among other objectives, “proper implementation of laws with respect to prohibition of slaughter and/or cruelty to cows.” Many Indian states, but not all, ban the slaughter of cattle.


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