cow politics

Looking back: The first Parliament attack took place in 1966 – and was carried out by gau rakshaks

The attack provided a significant fillip to the use of cow protection in Indian politics.

Everyone knows about the 2001 Parliament attack, where nine Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed militants stormed New Delhi’s British-built Sansad Bhawan only to be challenged and killed by the Delhi Police as well as Parliament Security Services personnel.

What is less known is that this was actually the second attempted attack on the Indian Parliament. In 1966, while Indira Gandhi was Prime Minister, a mob – led by a troupe of naked Naga sadhus – attempted to storm Sansad Bhawan, demanding that the Union government impose a national ban on cow slaughter. In the ensuing bedlam, the protestors killed one policeman, while police firing left seven gau rakshaks dead.

Indira Gandhi, then a political greenhorn, didn’t flinch either, refusing to ban cow slaughter – a position that even Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party government has stuck to even after more than two years in office.


Cows have been a fact of Indian politics for some time now. Mohandas Gandhi made cow protection a key part of his politics. In his book, Hind Swaraj, Gandhi wrote that he would approach his “Mohammedan brother and urge him for the sake of the country to join me in protecting her [the cow]”. In 1927, he would ask Dalits to give up “serious defects” such as eating beef since “cow protection is the outward form of Hinduism”.

While Gandhi would refuse to ask for legislation banning cow slaughter, typically asking instead to change hearts and minds, his introduction of cow protection as a political tool set an unfortunate precedent. After Independence, in the Constituent Assembly, many Congressmen would call for a fundamental right on cow protection and it was only some skilful manoeuvring by BR Ambedkar which ensured that cow protection only remained a (non-justiciable) Directive Principle.

Nevertheless, the cow was an emotive issue for many caste Hindus and the politics around it only grew. After Independence, when a group of cow protection activists met Jawaharlal Nehru, exasperated, the first prime minister asked them, “Why do you people run a campaign that I eat beef?”. In 1962, in Madhya Pradesh, the Jan Sangh, the predecessor of the current-day Bharatiya Janata Party, circulated pamphlets with drawings of Nehru slaughtering a cow with a sword. So effective was this that the Congress chief minister of Madhya Pradesh Kailash Nath Katju lost his seat to a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh member Laxmi Narayan Pandey, who fought on a Jan Sangh ticket, in the 1962 Assembly elections.

Storming Parliament

In 1966, a committee for cow protection, the Sarvadaliya Goraksha Mahaabhiyan Samiti, called for a mass satyagraha on November 7. The committee was headed by Prabhu Dutt Brahmachari, a freedom fighter who had joined politics as a follower of Gandhi and had then become a religious guru with an ashram near Allahabad. In the 1951 General Elections, he contested against Nehru Dutt, with support from the RSS, with cow protection and opposition to the Hindu Code bills as his platform.

Supported by the Jan Sangh officially as well as some Congressmen in their personal capacity, the November 7 satyagraha managed to attract a massive crowd – some estimates go up to 700,000.

Collecting outside the houses of Parliament, the sadhus, armed with spears and trishuls, then tried unsuccessfully to storm the complex as the Delhi police stood their ground.

Electoral price

Later, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi would fire her Home Minister Gulzari Lal Nanda for allowing the sadhus to enter the Parliament complex. Doubts had been raised about Nanda’s role in the affair given his earlier views in support of banning cow slaughter.

The Congress, though, would pay electorally for this. The Jan Sangh used the 1966 Parliament attack in its election message, criticising the Congress for not only prevaricating on a national cow slaughter law but also for opening fire on gau rakshaks. The Jan Sangh increased it seats by two and a half times in the 1967 Lok Sabha election, shooting up from 14 to 35.

And while no Central law on cow slaughter was sought to be imposed, the Congress, wary of the religious passions this could incite, went on to enact gau raksha or cow protection laws in various states. Later, the Jan Sangh’s successor the Bharatiya Janata Party would make these laws even more stringent.

In Madhya Pradesh, a law passed by the BJP government is so draconian, that accused under it are to be presumed guilty till they can prove themselves innocent – overturning one of the fundamental principles of criminal law. And finally, in the 2014 Lok Sabha election campaign, soon-to-be prime minister Narendra Modi would himself campaign on a platform of cow protection, accusing the Congress of furthering a “pink revolution” – a secret programme to slaughter India’s bovines for profit.

We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content  BY 

Harvard Business School’s HBX brings the future of business education to India with online programs

HBX is not only offering courses online, but also connecting students to the power of its network.

The classic design of the physical Harvard Business School (HBS) classroom was once a big innovation – precisely designed teaching amphitheaters laid out for every student to participate from his or her seat with a “pit” in the center of the room from which professors orchestrate discussions analyzing business cases like a symphony lead. When it came to designing the online experience of HBX—the school’s digital learning initiative—HBS faculty worked tirelessly to blend these tenets of the HBS classroom pedagogy with the power of new technology. With real-world problem solving, active learning, and social learning as its foundation, HBX offers immersive and challenging self-paced learning experiences through its interactive online learning platform.

Reimagining digital education, breaking the virtual learning mold

Typically, online courses follow a one-way broadcast mode – lectures are video recorded and reading material is shared – and students learn alone and are individually tested. Moving away from the passive learning model, HBX has developed an online platform that leverages the HBS ‘case-based pedagogy’ and audio-visual and interaction tools to make learning engaging.

HBX courses are rarely taught through theory. Instead, students learn through real-world problem-solving. Students start by grappling with a business problem – with real world data and the complexity in which a business leader would have to make a decision – and learn the theory inductively. Thus even as mathematical theories are applied to business situations, students come away with a greater sense of clarity and perspective, whether it is reading a financial report, understanding why a brand’s approach to a random sample population study may or may not work, or how pricing works.

HBX Platform | Courses offered in the HBX CORe program
HBX Platform | Courses offered in the HBX CORe program

“Learning about concepts through real-life cases was my favorite part of the program. The cases really helped transform abstract concepts into observable situations one could learn from. Furthermore, it really helped me understand how to identify situations in which I could use the tools that HBX equipped me with,” says Anindita Ravikumar, a past HBX participant. India’s premier B-school IIM-Ahmedabad has borrowed the very same pedagogy from Harvard. Learning in this manner is far more engaging, relatable, and memorable.

Most lessons start with a short 2-3 minute video of a manager talking about the business problem at hand. Students are then asked to respond on how they would handle the issue. Questions can be in the form of either a poll or reflections. Everyone’s answers are then visible to the ‘classroom’. In the words of Professor Bharat Anand, Faculty Chair, HBX, “This turns out to be a really important distinction. The answers are being updated in real-time. You can see the distribution of answers, but you can also see what any other individual has answered, which means that you’re not anonymous.” Students have real profiles and get to know their ‘classmates’ and learn from each other.

HBX Interface | Students can view profiles of other students in their cohort
HBX Interface | Students can view profiles of other students in their cohort

Professor Anand also says, “We have what we call the three-minute rule. Roughly every three minutes, you are doing something different on the platform. Everyone is on the edge of their seats. Anyone could be called on to participate at any time. It’s a very lean forward mode of learning”. Students get ‘cold-called’ – a concept borrowed from the classroom – where every now and then individuals will be unexpectedly prompted to answer a question on the platform and their response will be shared with other members of the cohort. It keeps students engaged and encourages preparedness. While HBX courses are self-paced, participants are encouraged to get through a certain amount of content each week, which helps keep the cohort together and enables the social elements of the learning experience.

More than digital learning

The HBS campus experience is valued by alumni not just for the academic experience but also for the diverse network of peers they meet. HBX programs similarly encourage student interactions and opportunities for in-person networking. All HBXers who successfully complete their programs and are awarded a credential or certificate from HBX and Harvard Business School are invited to the annual on-campus HBX ConneXt event to meet peers from around the world, hear from faculty and business executives, and also experience the HBS campus near Cambridge.

HBXers at ConneXt, with Prof. Bharat Anand
HBXers at ConneXt, with Prof. Bharat Anand

Programs offered today

HBX offers a range of programs that appeal to different audiences.

To help college students and recent graduates prepare for the business world, HBX CORe (Credential of Readiness) integrates business essentials such as analytics, economics, and financial accounting. HBX CORe is also great for those interested in an MBA looking to strengthen their application and brush up their skills to be prepared for day one. For working professionals, HBX CORe and additional courses like Disruptive Strategy, Leading with Finance, and Negotiation Mastery, can help deepen understanding of essential business concepts in order to add value to their organizations and advance their careers.

Course durations range from 6 to 17 weeks depending on the program. All interested candidates must submit a free, 10-15 minute application that is reviewed by the HBX admissions team by the deadlines noted on the HBX website.

For more information, please review the HBX website.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of HBX and not by the Scroll editorial team.