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Cow Slaughter Ban- Why people are opposing it in India?

By Deepak Parvatiyar

April 6, 2015

Yogi Adityanath, the irrepressible Bharatiya Janata Party Member of Parliament, wants cow to be declared  “Rashtra Maataa (Mother of the Nation)”. On the flip side, why not? Doesn’t every Hindu child learn by rote that “Gai hamaari maataa hai (Cow is our mother)?”

Hue and cry over cow slaughter ban in India

So why should Adityanath go overboard to demand an official stamp on such a notion of faith if not for whipping up the Hindu sentiments for obvious reasons?

With his demand, Yogi Adiyanath is actually one step ahead of his party, which in its poll manifesto has already promised a ban on cow slaughter. But what does it imply? In any case a majority of Hindus, by choice and as a matter of faith, don’t kill cows or eat beef, just like the Muslims who don’t eat pigs! Remember that the army had revolted against the East India Company in 1857 over the issue of the gunpowder cartridges that were widely believed to be greased with cow or pig fat?

Ever since coming to power, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government has moved promptly seeking to introduce a nationwide ban on cow slaughter with the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh making it firm and clear that “ “Cow slaughter cannot be accepted in this country…”

Yet, cow slaughter is already banned in a majority of states in the country for many years. Even in Jammu and Kashmir, which has large Muslim population, the Ranbir Penal Code, 1932, makes “voluntary slaughter” of any bovine a punishable offence. In Manipur, where beef is largely consumed in the hill districts, a Maharaja in the Durbar Resolution of 1939 does not allow cow slaughter and states that killing of cow is  not only a “sinful act” according to Hindu religion but is also “against Manipur Custom” . In Assam, cow slaughter is allowed only if the bovine is over 14 years of age and given the “fit for slaughter” certificate.

The only exceptions are Kerala, West Bengal, Sikkim, and the north-eastern states of Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Tripura.

This effectively means that the beef that is sold in Indian market is not cow’s meat but largely that of bull, ox, buffalo, heifer or calf. This implies that cow slaughter and ban on beef sales are  two different things.

So obviously faith or religion had little to do when the BJP government of Maharashtra imposed a ban on sale and consumption of all forms of beef in the state. Since the slaughter of cows was already banned in the state under the Maharashtra Animal Preservation Act of 1976, the new restrictions meant that even the slaughter of bulls and bullocks, which was earlier permitted on a fit-for-slaughter certificate, was banned now.

Similar was the case with Haryana which already had an existing law banning cow slaughter but last month the newly launched state BJP government introduced a fresh law –  ‘Gauvansh Sanrakshan and Gausamvardhan’ Act, 2015 – banning cow slaughter and sale of beef on grounds that the old law was  weak and had many lacunae.

What though compounds the matter is the BJP’s wont to pursue the Hindutva card aggressively that has often lured it to play to the gallery.
Just consider that, as reports suggest, some BJP leaders in Kerala have sought to justify the move to ban beef and slaughter of bovines by citing environment and health grounds.

There are some facts in such claims. According to a 2006 report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), production of meat contributed between 14 and 22 percent of the 36 billion tons of “Carbon dioxide equivalent” greenhouse gases the world produces every year. Besides, the growing demand for beef had resulted in desertification of forests of Amazonian Brazil and other South American countries as they went on a spree to convert into forest lands into grazing grounds in the 1970s.

If these are the reasons for beef ban, then why associate religion or invoke Hindus’ faith? In that case why ban beef alone?

Kerala is one of the largest beef consuming states in the country and the Opposition there has a point when it claims that the BJP government at the Centre “was trying to communalise even the food habits of the people of the country”.

What compounds the situation is the fact that livestock is a State subject and the recent move by the Prime Minister’s office to seek Law Ministry’s opinion on whether the Centre could introduce a model bill for the consideration of legislations on cow slaughter in states where cow slaughter and beef are allowed, did not go down well with these states.

Both the ruling as well as the opposition parties in Kerala, in a rare convergence last month, had protested against the NDA government’s move, which they described as “an encroachment on personal liberty”.

In 2003 too, when the BJP-led NDA-1 was at the helm and mulled banning cow slaughter and beef, chief ministers of the three north-eastern states – Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland – had come out in the open to slam the Union Cabinet’s decision to ban cow slaughter and warned against any legislation that clashed with the “indigenous cultures” of their states.

Consider that a couple of years ago, in 2013, the Congress Government of Karnataka decided to restore the Karnataka Prevention of Cow Slaughter and Cattle Preservation Act, 1964, after the previous state BJP government had twice got passed the Karnataka Prevention of Cow Slaughter and Preservation (Amendment) Bill, 2010 in the state legislature, which was pending before the President. The 1964 Act allowed slaughter of bulls, bullocks and buffaloes if they were aged above 12 or if they were no longer fit for breeding or draught or did not give milk.

There is the financial aspect too, that makes the proposition even more complex. India today is the second largest beef exporting country after Brazil. (In 2012-13, it had exported beef worth $29million). Yet, most of the legal beef exported was in fact ‘carabeef’ — meat of buffalo and not the cow. Even from Gujarat, the meat export had doubled in the last decade and the state ranked among the top 10 states with slaughterhouses.

Besides, even farmers earn significantly by selling their aged milch cattle, male calves and bulls to the slaughterhouses. They are an important source of their income at the time of distress in case of drought or crop failure.

Obviously a blanket ban on cattle slaughter and beef sale will affect thousands who depend on this industry. It will also promote illegal slaughterhouses, considering the big money involved in the industry. Reports suggest that the ban on cow slaughter has resulted in “an estimated 30,000 illegal, unlicensed slaughterhouses in India”.

What is baffling is the speed with which the new BJP ruled states moved to carry out the diktat. Consider how following the beef ban in Maharashtra,  the Bombay high court had to intervene to ask the Maharashtra government “to be fair” and consider giving beef dealers a reasonable time to dispose of carcasses of animals already slaughtered or live stock.

Further, beef sells cheap in the market as compared to other meats. In Mumbai market, beef is sold at Rs. 180-200 a kg while goat’s meat is sold at Rs. 380-400, and pork at Rs. 180-280 a kg.

Little surprise, therefore, in the non-BJP ruled states beef is not banned.  Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien even raised the issue in Rajya Sabha, saying, beef was the “poor man’s protein” and that the issue “should not be looked through religious prisms” as besides minorities, even Dalits ate beef.

M.B. Rajesh, All-India President of the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), the youth wing of the CPI (M), went on to claim that even in Manu Smriti, “it is explicitly written that every meat except for camel is edible.”

Taking a dig at the BJP, Joice George, an independent member of Parliament from Kerala, claimed that even the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s Sarsanghchalak, MS Golwarkar, had said that the beef issue was “nothing but politics”.

But what about Yogi Adityanath’s demand to declare cow the Rashtra Mata? Wouldn’t by doing so, and by igniting the Hindu passion, all politics will fall in line? The BJP’s reaction is awaited. But one thing is clear. Adityanath, after all, is a seer! Isn’t he?

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Disclaimer: The views expressed are of those of the author and do not represent the views of Elections.in.

I am a journalist, educationist and filmmaker with over twenty years of experience in the media industry. I have worked in different capacities in all formats (print, television and web) in prestigious media organizations in India and abroad. As a journalist I have covered social issues, natural calamities, successive state assembly as well as parliament elections since 1989, government offices, Indian political parties, state legislative assemblies as well as Indian Parliament.

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