India will hold a mass nationwide online “cow science” exam next month, officials said, in the latest push by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to promote and protect the animal considered sacred by a large section of the Hindu majority.
The hourlong test on February 25, open to children and adults, as well as foreigners, comprises 100 multiple-choice questions in Hindi, English and 12 regional languages.
The aim is to assess people’s knowledge and “sensitise and educate” them, according to Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog (National Cow Commission or RKA), the cow protection agency created by Modi’s administration.
“Certificates will be given to all. Successful meritorious candidates will be given prizes and certificates,” the Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying said on Wednesday.
“The cow is full of science and economics. People are not aware of the true economic and scientific value of the animal,” RKA chief Vallabhbhai Kathiria said.
Accompanying study material released by the RKA includes information on different cow breeds, as well as the theory that slaughtering animals causes earthquakes.
Many from India’s overwhelming Hindu majority consider cows sacred, but under Modi’s rule, the animal has increasingly become a political and sectarian flashpoint.
His government has made cows a top priority and invested millions of dollars in programmes to protect the animal and research the uses for bovine dung and urine.
Cow slaughter and eating beef has become illegal in many parts of the culturally diverse and officially secular country, while sentences elsewhere have increased.
There have been a string of attacks by vigilante Hindu groups on Muslims and low-caste Hindus who have traditionally eaten beef and disposed of cow carcasses.
On Tuesday, the southern state of Karnataka amended its cow protection law to give police increased powers to search and arrest anyone without a warrant suspected of cow slaughter.
The state government, controlled by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), enhanced jail terms to seven years and fines to one million rupees ($13,700) for offenders.