Union minister Giriraj Singh is in the eye of a controversy again. This time, he has said Indians going abroad and eating beef is a matter of concern.
This is not the first tryst of this Union minister of animal husbandry, dairying and fisheries, who belongs to the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Singh in 2016 courted controversy when he said Hindus in India should look to increase their population.
The current controversy
Singh was speaking at a religious function in his home constituency on Friday when he advocated the teaching of the Bhagavad Gita — the sacred book of Hindus — in schools.
News agency ANI quoted him as saying: “We send our children to missionary schools, they get through IIT, become engineers, go abroad and most of them start eating beef. Why? Because we did not teach them about our culture and traditional values.”
He added, apparently trying to explain how this lack of values manifests: “Later, the parents complain that their children are not taking care of them.”
He then said: “Therefore, schools should teach lessons of the verse of the Gita.”
Hindus treat the cow as a maternal figure. Therefore, eating beef is considered a sin by them.
Singh’s statements are being seen as an effort by him and his party to stoke Hindu sentiments in a country that is already being divided along religious lines.
Singh is not new to kicking up a row with his statements. In 2016, he suggested a two-child policy across religions in the country.
Commentators widely saw this as a swipe at Muslims in India, who are often accused of having several children so they can use their numbers to grab political and social power.
Singh, a Hindu, had said back then: “Hindus should have two sons, Muslims, too, should have two sons. Our population is coming down. Bihar has seven such districts where our population has gone down.”
He called for changes in “population rules” in the country. “Only then will our daughters be safe. Otherwise, like Pakistan, we too will have to keep our daughters under the veil.”
Who is Giriraj Singh?
Singh is the sitting MP from Begusarai in Bihar. He also has a significant political legacy at the state level.
His official Central government page says he is a graduate from Magadh University. However, it does not mention any subject, field or specialisation.
Bihar has a bicameral legislature. It was the Upper House — the Legislative Council — where Singh started his political journey in 2002.
He remained a member of the Council till 2014, when he won the general election and with it a seat in the Lok Sabha, India’s equivalent to the US House of Representatives.
Singh, who served two stints as minister during his stay in Bihar, became minister of state, ministry of micro, small and medium enterprises in 2014. He obtained independent charge of the portfolio in 2017.
He became Cabinet Minister of Ministry of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries in 2019, after the BJP returned to power in the country with a massive victory.