A former Indian spiritual guru has said that World War III will be fought over a cow. The spiritual-guru-turned-official, Mahamandleshwar Swami Akhileshwaranand Giri, made this prediction during a meeting of the executive council of the state of Madhya Pradesh.

India
Photo by Rod Waddington, Flickr

Why does the spiritual guru think so?

Giri claimed that cows have always been a “source of contention.”

He told Indian newspaper the Indian Express, “The Third World War will start over a cow. There are references in mythology and the first war of independence in 1857 began over the cow.”

The comments by the former spiritual guru came just hours after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged a stop to public floggings by cow protection vigilantes.

In Hindu culture, cows are considered quite sacred, and killing them is prohibited in most states of the country. Dalits, who were formerly known as “untouchables,” are commonly tasked with removing the corpses of dead cows from streets. Since Modi won the elections in 2014, attacks by vigilante groups on cow smugglers and traders have increased.

Modi described the ongoing exploitation of Dalits as shameful. Dalits lie at the bottom of the deeply entrenched social hierarchal system of India.

Addressing the public, Modi said, “Why should they exploit their Dalit brothers? What right do they have for such behavior?” Modi said it is their responsibility to respect and protect whose who are at the lowest rung of society.

Several fights over cows already

The Indian PM had faced censures when he remained quiet last month over the attack on villagers in his home state of Gujarat by so-called cow defenders. In addition, a video went viral on social media that showed four Dalits being beaten by these so-called cow defenders when they were taking a dead cow to be skinned. Since then, violent protests have erupted over the attack, and has left a police officer dead.

Swami said it is natural for gau rakshaks [cow-protectors] to get angry when they see injured or dead cows packed in cars because it is an emotive issue for them. He added that the cow defenders should, however, not take the law into their own hands and should wait for the police to come once they halt such cars.

Swami says a lot needs to done towards cow conservation, awareness and research. He says it may be possible that the state’s chief minister has agreed in principle to an independent Gau Mantralaya (cow ministry). He also says the funds that the board receive from the government are not enough. There are around 575+ recognized gaushalas (cow shelters) in the state, and according to him, most of them can become self-sufficient and begin their own research into cow products.

“When all states pass stricter anti-cow slaughter laws, smuggling of cattle through state borders will become impossible,” said the Indian official.