Re-reading Liberalism: In the Heat of an FIR Lodged against an Indigenous People by PETA

The unintended but homogenising hands of PETA, for that matter all the radical animal movements, could too be detrimental if not checked but given a free run, not taking away any of their sincere efforts and laudable achievements.

Shallow understanding of cultures or reinforcing singularity of cosmology has resulted in yet another assault on the Indigenous Peoples before the wound of dog meat ban in Nagaland, India under the aegis of People for Animals (PFA), is healed. Based on the video that went viral on social media, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has filed a case against a Tangkhul Naga from Ukhrul District, Manipur, India for slaying a cow with a gun deeming it to be an act of cruelty towards animal using arms. On 30th January, 2021, an FIR (First Information Report) has been lodged against the allegedly accused under Section 429 of The Indian Penal Code, Sections 11(1) (a) and (l) of The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960 and Section 25(1C) of the Arms Act, 1959.

Actions are guided by cosmology. Cosmology is the endeavour to understand the configuration and origin of the universe. Different religions, peoples and so forth understand the universe in different ways. So, there are plurality of cosmologies. Plurality of cosmologies effects plurality of cultures that one embraces and values that one upholds. These cultural values direct the intention and purpose of the actions of peoples that are also derivatives of its knowledge. Thus, actions are guided by cosmology. As such, many drink cow urines while some consume cows. Parallelly, several prefer mutton while some relish dog meat. This is above the disablist Gomutra metaphysics or the racist acrobatic cannibal metaphysics. Both can rise above loss of respect and dignity. Yet, none sits above the other. One might have to extract the chemical component/s that have medicinal value for pharmaceutical or Ayurvedic uses instead of swigging the actual stuff organically while another might have to not flaunt its sportsmanship that are disrespectful towards other communities.

Meanwhile, on the high streets, both are being suppressed in the name of legitimacy. Scientific cosmology is not the only legitimate one. There are but cosmologies! One among them is Hindu cosmology, which is different from the acclaimed scientific cosmology. Hindu cosmology is also struggling for a place against the force of scientific cosmology from the West. Attempts to assert Hindu cosmology onto the realm of hegemonic scientific cosmology has created much chaos in the country. Inferiority of Hindu cosmology is not the reason for the chaos. Hegemonic scientific cosmology that just refuses to cede space for Hindu cosmology to legitimately express itself is to be blamed, if not the hasty assertion of half-formulated cosmological derivatives into the system that had been well hegemonized by scientific cosmology through colonialism and neo-imperialism. Like Hindu cosmology, lesser-known cosmologies like those of Indigenous Peoples are battling for a legitimate space to express itself. Like Hindu cosmology needs space, those of Indigenous Peoples require time in their own spaces. This necessitates recognition and acceptance of plurality of cosmologies. So long as the debate on the origin of universe and its composition remain unsolved, all cosmologies are speculative including scientific cosmology. None sits above the other as more scientific.

If decolonisation limits itself to deconstruction, it is nihilistic. If decolonisation is to come closer towards a synthesis of harmonious co-existentialism, it needs to extend itself towards reinvigorating the malnourished existing ones or retrieving the repressed ones or construct a more robust one. Decolonisation might not necessarily be against liberalism but universalism of any hegemonic entity.

If liberalism is universalism, it has ridiculously been misunderstood. It had led to colonialism in the past. Currently, neo-imperialism is enabling mad rush towards the Global North. As a result, fear of reverse colonialism is mounting. Who could deny that Brexit is a cautious move against reverse colonialism? Clamp down on H-1B Visa under Trump too smacks of the same kind of insecurity. Misunderstanding of liberalism is leading to homogenisation. De-concentration of power from the core Global North will go a long way in dealing with reverse colonisation. This calls for re-reading of liberalism.

Likewise, the unintended but homogenising hands of PETA, for that matter all the radical animal movements, could too be detrimental if not checked but given a free run, not taking away any of their sincere efforts and laudable achievements. Yet it should mindfully stay away from radicalisation and consequently the subsequent conflicts. Radicalisation leads to vulgarisation and love’s labour’s lost. For instance, the debates surrounding the acts of spaying and neutering as the lesser evil stand on shaky grounds if charges on cruelty towards animals are to be argued. If putting a life to death is an offence, destruction of the reproductive capacity unless the animal wills is equally human-supremacist. Herein, PETA’s token of anti-human supremacism is also exposed. Moreover, morally, ethically, logically and ecologically, cases of euthanasia at PETA shelters are no superior to killings for consumption. Disruption in the food chain system results in chaos eventually disruption of the natural order. Read with: Indigenous worldviews do not subscribe to unrestrained commercialisation of any resources.

The greater confusion today here is liberalism is being misconstrued. Liberalism in its truest sense is recognition of pluralism. Liberalism as universalism fuelled by scientific cosmology alone is a stick that hath failed to redeem the world. Liberalism as pluralism with rooms for all cosmologies along with scientific knowledge looks like the better way forward towards peaceful and harmonious synthesis of co-existentialism. The earth that we so desire and aspire to bequeath some for the posterity requires rationality of the highest degree in the minds as liberalism too is a double-edged sword if exposed to power dynamics as history has proved to be so. Why can’t Indigenous liberalism have a space in times?

By Shaokhai Mayirnao
The author is a Research Scholar, a PhD candidate at the Tata Institute of Social Science, Mumbai. Views are personal.

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