“Don’t divide this country between cow-belt & non cow-belt”

Late Prof. G. G. Swell was one of the doyens of politics in Meghalaya. He started his political life with groups fighting for a separate Hill State and won the parliamentary elections from the Shillong parliamentary constituency on a Hill State platform.  But like many other politicians in Meghalaya who once championed the regional tribal cause, Mr. Swell later became a part of the Congress and at the fag end of his life he even joined the BJP, a party whose divisive cow-belt politics he had criticised in his justly famous speech in the Indian parliament on May 28, 1996. Speaking against the Motion of Confidence in the Council of Ministers headed by Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, his witty and impassioned defence of Indian diversity and Beef eating Northeast is worth reading today.  For a hagiography do see this curiously written wikipedia entry

XI Lok Sabha Debates, Session I, Tuesday, May 28, 1996 / Jyaistha 7, 1918 (Saka)


Title: Further discussion on the Motion of Confidence in the Council
of Ministers moved by Shri Atal Bihare Vajpayee. (Contd.-Concluded)

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Swell, you may speak for three minutes only. We are already behind schedule. So, I request the participants to be very very brief.

1256 hrs.

Late. G. G. Swell, erstwhile M.P. from Shillong
Late. G. G. Swell, erstwhile M.P. from Shillong

PROF. G.G. SWELL(SHILLONG): After so much of turmoil, after so much of collective display of lung power, I hope I would be able to restore some serenity, vision and sanity to this House. I have returned to this House after a number of years. I have come here all on my own defeating all national parties with a margin that perhaps proportionately would be one of the highest in the world. Sir, the Prime Minister, Mr. Vajpayee has been my friend for a number of years and I have so many good friends in BJP . But I must say with anguish and not with jubilation, after a good deal of introspection and after a good deal of cogitation, that I have made this journey from approximating to a party which I now considered to be a hierarchical and monolithic to the democratic forum of leaders where we meet and discuss, that is the United Front. Mr. Vajpayee has been my friend for a number of years, as I have already said. I thought I knew him. Today, I do not know him. The irrational thing that he ever did was to have assumed power. I had expected that he would show himself to be a leader of this nation and that as a national leader his Government would project a national image. On the other hand he started donning the Hindutva clothes and he started basing his Government on what we called, the cow-belt. This is what I could not understand. This is why perhaps he has not only remained where he was – frozen with 194 supporters with him and has not been able to win any more friends – but as a matter of fact alienated many friends. The worst thing is, Mr. Vajpayee will be going out of office within a few minutes. He will be a leader lying in history and history will not be repeated.

My friends in the BJP, especially Mr. Pramod Mahajan, were saying that after this there will be another election in the country. We are not afraid of another election. I am not afraid of it. I am prepared to face election even tomorrow and I promise that I will beat you with double the margin that I have got now.

Having said so, I say it with considerable pain that Mr. Vajpayee has done a great damage to this country. He has polarised this country. He has divided this country into the cow-belt and non cow-belt. This is what is happening in this country. I do not understand his dissimulation.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]He has polarised this country. He has
divided this country into the cow-belt and non cow-belt. This is what is
happening in this country. I do not understand his dissimulation.[/pullquote]

I do not understand why Mr. Vajpayee has taken to dissimulation. The President’s Address is a string of inanities, a string of good wishes that he wishes to do. He seems to have forgotten all the fundamentals of his party. There is only one thing in which he is sincere and that is to have a total ban on cow slaughter. I have said that in the North-East – I come from that section as you come – beef is the cheapest source of protein for the majority of the

If you stop people …(Interruptions)… They are ashamed of us and we are ashamed of them. …(Interruptions)… They can never impose their hegemony on the North-East. The Mughal emperors tried to do that by sending the army to Assam and each time they had been turned away from the banks of Brahmaputra. They cannot impose their way of life on the people of North-East.

[pullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]They cannot impose their way of life on the people of North-East.[/pullquote]

Sir, I think this is a wrong policy economically also. We make an economic study of the cattle in this country. I make a submission that 80 percent of the cattle population in this country is uneconomic. Very few cattle in this country give proper type or quantity of milk. Many of them just go on champing out blades of grass and leaves leaving the country barren, and are turning the country into a desert. Some of them are being used as draught animals but a time comes when they are no longer used as draught animals. What do you do with all these cattle? Are you going to watch them? You are going to allow them to champ up all vegetation in the country. What are you going to do with it? This is uneconomic.

I think, it is something right and good that this Government is going out of power in a few minutes. If they follow the kind of an economic policy which has got to be in sync with the economic developments in the world, they cannot suggest all these things. You have got to reform and one of the things you reform is to reform the way which you approach your cattle. Treat your cattle well, get the benefit out of them. What are they going to do with all these stray cattle? Either you eat them or you kill them, do something. England today is facing what they call `the mad cow disease’ of the beef. The destruction of these cattle and even the cost of destruction has become a big problem in that country. What are they going to do with it here? They have to
think about it.

Mr. Speaker, Sir, if this is the way in which the BJP conducts its affairs, I can tell you that the whole of the North-East from Bhutan right up to Naga will be forbidding them psychologically. Nobody will listen to them. They have been able to make some progress in that area mostly by overindulgence. But this time even that little progress will be swept out. Nobody is going to listen to them. They have nothing to do in West Bengal. They have nothing to do in Andhra Pradesh and nowhere else in the South. The whole country is being divided between the cowbelt and the non-cowbelt. But even in the cowbelt areas the Muslims, the low-caste and the other people will rise against you. Therefore, if you think that you are going to benefit when you go out of office, if you think that you will benefit out of sympathy wave, it is going to be the other way. I tell you, I predict that when the elections are held you are going to do very poorly. You are not going to get even the number that you have today.


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