Indian gov’t says hug cows on Valentine’s Day, Twitter cracks up

Animal welfare department appeals to mark February 14 this year not as a celebration of romance but as ‘Cow Hug Day’ to promote Hindu values.

An appeal by India’s animal welfare department asking citizens to mark Valentine’s Day this year not as a celebration of romance but as “Cow Hug Day” to better promote Hindu values has been ridiculed on social media.

In a statement, the Animal Welfare Board of India on Wednesday said “hugging cows will bring emotional richness and increase individual and collective happiness”.

Devout Hindus, who worship cows as holy, say the Western holiday goes against traditional Indian values.

In recent years, far-right Hindu groups have raided shops in cities, burned cards and gifts, and chased hand-holding couples out of restaurants and parks, saying that Valentine’s Day promotes promiscuity.

Groups such as the Shiv Sena and Bajrang Dal say such actions pave the way to reassert Hindu identity.

Young educated Indians, irrespective of their religion, typically spend the holiday crowding parks and restaurants, exchanging gifts and holding parties to celebrate like any other Indian festival, especially since India began the process of economic liberalisation in the early 1990s.

The Hindu nationalist government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been pushing a Hindu agenda, seeking supremacy of the religion at the expense of a secular nation known for its diversity.

Hindus comprise nearly 80 percent of its nearly 1.4 billion people. Muslims account for 14 percent, while Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains account for most of the remaining 6 percent.

The cow has long been embedded in the Hindu psyche and is deeply respected by many as similar to one’s mother. Most states in India have banned cow slaughter.

According to data analytics site India Spend, at least 45 people were killed by Hindu cow vigilante groups in the country between 2012 and 2018.

The animal welfare board’s appeal asks people to go out and physically hug cows on February 14.

Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, a political analyst, said the appeal is “absolutely crazy and defies logic”.

“The unfortunate part is this has now official sanction,” he added. “This shows an eraser of one more line between the state and religion, which is very depressing. Now the state is doing what political and religious groups have been campaigning to do.”

In a satiric column in The Indian Express, journalist Aakash Joshi wondered if the government’s bovine deification may also serve an economic function.

“Since there’s little sign of India leading the march on new tech, perhaps we can all find gigs as cow hug facilitators or domesticated animal safari guides,” he wrote.

The government’s Valentine’s Day appeal has been widely ridiculed. Sample some tweets:

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