Wednesday, February 11, 2009
India's Hindu nationalist movement wants to launch a new soft drink made from cow urine
The bovine brew is in the final stages of development by the Cow Protection Department of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), India's biggest and oldest Hindu nationalist group, according to the man who makes it. Om Prakash, the head of the department, said the drink – called "gau jal", or "cow water" – in Sanskrit was undergoing laboratory tests and would be launched "very soon, maybe by the end of this year". The drink is the latest attempt by the RSS – which was founded in 1925 and now claims eight million members – to cleanse India of foreign influence and promote its ideology of Hindutva, or Hindu-ness. Hindus revere cows and slaughtering them is illegal in most of India. Cow dung is traditionally used as a fuel and disinfectant in villages, while cow urine and dung are often consumed in rituals to "purify" those on the bottom rungs of the Hindu caste system. In 2001, the RSS and its offshoots – which include the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party – began promoting cow urine as a cure for ailments ranging from liver disease to obesity and even cancer. The movement has often been accused of using more violent methods, such as killing 67 Christians in the eastern state of Orissa in 2008, and assaulting women in a pub in Mangalore in January 2009. It also has a history of targeting foreign business in India, as in 1994, when it organised a nationwide boycott of multinational consumer goods, including Pepsi and Coca Cola.