As a prolific Indian diplomat, writer and member of parliament Shashi Tharoor fires boldly,"it is safer to be a cow than a Muslim in India." Radical developments in the Indian political scenario have prompted events like the lynching of Muhammad Akhlaq, a farmer, and father of an Air Force Engineer, by an angry mob over beef eating rumors. This followed the flogging of some Dalits (low cast community in India) over skinning of a dead cow which stirred violence across India.
Soaked in rising extremism, Gow Raksha (Cow protection) has become a central political issue after the Prime Minister Modi's right-wing Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has assumed power. Indian Hindus have always abhorred cow meat consumption, yet they are seeking nourishment through cow urine. Never in history, cow urine has been processed commercially for therapeutic purposes and more so under the patronage of government as it is today. So it should be a very good news for Ayurvedic medicine lovers that cow urine is now available on Amazon under its Sanskrit name gomutra ark.
There are boiled, condensed, sweetened and herb supplemented editions of the original liquid extracted from the cow. Gomutra is typically traded for as much as $25 per gallon as compared to cow milk which is sold at only 25 Cents per gallon.
While Allopathic doctors deny commenting on the curing capacity of gomutra, some BJP leaders advocate ingestion of cow urine as a cure for all kinds of illnesses including cancer, epilepsy, fever, diabetes, stomach diseases, infections, ulcers, tumors, tuberculosis, liver diseases and even obesity. No wonder cow urine has become a popular form of therapy in superstitious India.
And the business is booming under the patronage of the political elite. Last month, one of India's biggest cow shelters began producing 10,000 liters of cow urine a day at a production facility inaugurated by the health minister. Similar production plants are springing up all over the country.
Cow protectors claim that cow urine has been used for therapeutic purposes since pre-Vedic times and the Vedas themselves refer to it as a purifying substance, but it was only in 2001 that some Hindu radicals promoted cow's urine as a cure for ailments ranging from liver disease to obesity and even cancer. Traditionally used in combination with other mixtures, it is widely used in Ayurvedic medicines. Urine of a pregnant cow is considered special and it is claimed that it contains special hormones and minerals.
Cow Urine is also used in purification rituals. In 2007, according to a Reuters report, Hindu teachers sprinkled cow urine over the faces and answer sheets of low caste school students to purify them during their exams saying they will perform better after purification.
While the political elite seem to be driving this craze , the academic community is not far behind. According to a recent study by Dr. BA Golakia, head of the Biotechnology Department, Junagadh Agricultural University (JAU) discovered Gold in the urine of Gir breed of Cow ranging from 3 to 10 mg per liter of urine.
Contrary to Golakia research, a 2001 study found prions, --a transmittable infectious agent that may affect the brain in the urine of cows-- Similarly, a 1975 study on mice found that cow urine causes death in high doses. A similar 1976 study on dogs indicated that repeated administration of a cow urine concoction as used in Nigerian folk medicine, resulted in hypo tension and tachypnea, and even death.
While international scientific research does not support the healing properties of gomutra, a State run hospital in Rajhistan has already begun to use Gaunyle -a cleaning mixture containing cow urine and Neem plant leaves and pine fragrance-- instead of common phenyl. Surprisingly the idea was proposed by Maneka Gandhi, minister for women and child development and an animal rights activist.
In a country like India, even harnessing and marketing of cow urine as an economic activity can certainly go a long way in beating recession, but in the absence of any authentic research study to back it up, in marketing gomutra as a potent medicine the Indian political elite is doing no less than exploiting the ignorance and religious sentiments of its ill-educated masses.