Cows, congress and the Constitution: Jawaharlal Nehru and the making of Article 48

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Added late to the draft Indian Constitution, Article 48 specifically mandated the Indian state to criminalise the killing of cows, a provision that, as well as being arguably at odds with at least three of the document's Directive Principles, was implicitly anti-Muslim. The provision was adopted, almost without demur, by a Constituent Assembly dominated by the Congress at a time when discrimination against the Indian Muslim minority in other fields was rife. With hindsight, the making of Article 48 can be seen as the first victory in post-colonial India of the nascent Hindu Right, preceding as it did even the formation of the country's first effective Hindu political party, the Bharatiya Jana Sangh. This paper investigates how, and why, the cause of cow protection came to be supported (and effectively sponsored) in the Assembly by senior members of a supposedly secular Congress parliamentary caucus headed by staunch anti-communalist, agnostic and Muslim sympathiser, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)723-743
Number of pages21
JournalSouth Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Congress Party
  • cows
  • Indian Constitution
  • Nehru

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