Cow’s urine: Indian election manifesto and cancer cure

In India, cow's urine is powerful stuff.

It cures cancer, heals injuries, and wins elections. Or so says the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The party has already touted the benefits of cow dung – it blocks radiation, saves houses from earthquakes, and leaps tall buildings in a single bound (with the aid of a powerful catapult) – in the central state of Madhya Pradesh. But now it's looking to the yellow stuff to woo voters in the northern state of Uttarakhand.

What gives?

If re-elected to power, the BJP will encourage the production of filtered cow urine, as well as build shelters for ageing and sick cattle, according to the Hindustan Times.

The party’s Uttarakhand in-charge and national general secretary, Thawarchand Gehlot, detailed the uses cow urine would be put to: “Gau Mootra is filtered and cleaned to produce a concentrated juice called ‘ark’. This helps cure various diseases from cancer to injuries.”

The Independent's Andrew Buncombe says it's an acquired taste: "Just the smallest sip was enough to trigger a flurry of different associations – burning grass, petrol, Laphroaig whisky, rancid sourness – that produced a vile gustatory overload."

But it's hard to knock the espoused benefits:

“Cow urine also helps produce medicines for the treatment of eye and ear diseases.” The urine can also be dried to produce tablets, Gehlot said, adding yoga guru Baba Ramdev in Uttarakhand and Kamal Kishore Nagar in Madhya Pradesh have made medicines from cow urine.

Last week, the BJP confirmed that apart from its extensive medical benefits, cow dung is “the abode of the goddess Lakshmi” (who brings wealth). The Hindustan Times was on top of that one, too:

“Cow dung is the abode of goddess Lakshmi,” said the party's central cow development cell on Friday. And this was not all.

“The urine of the cow is the abode of the Ganges,” the release went on. “Cow dung is a purifier of impurities…. The cow and cow dung are lifelines of the nation. If the cow survives, the nation will survive. That is why we refer to the cow as 'mother cow' and 'mother of the whole world'.”

Note: The BJP has a central cow development cell.

Why does that matter? Apart from propagating superstitions unfounded in scientific research (Yet! I said Yet! Don't touch that tweet button!), the campaign confirms that the party's links to the more extreme wings of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) “family” have not been broken – whatever claims some may make about the BJP gradually transforming itself into India's equivalent to America's Republican party.

And those RSS guys? Well, they don't exactly run around wearing white sheets and burning crosses. They wear khaki shorts and practice military drill with wooden canes. They don't hate Muslims, they just think they should have fewer kids, or act as much like Hindus as possible, or maybe move out of India altogether. They don't exactly idolize Hitler, they just got their theory of Hindu nationalism from his ideas.

However, they are nice to cows.

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