The long anticipated cow slaughter ban across India under BJP rule is already here. It is indeed a sinister move by the Environmental Ministry issuing new rules to regulate these animal markets with an eye towards limiting or stopping cow slaughter across the nation. The new rule states that animal markets can no longer be used to sell or purchase cattle for the purposes of slaughtering. The regulations apply to bulls, cows, buffaloes and camels.

The reactions from the southern states were quick and predictable and the chief minister of Kerala, Pinarai Vijayan, took the lead in saying that “Malayali diet need not be decided by Delhi (read Union Government) or Nagpur (read RSS headquarters). Nobody can change our diet,” he said. Student organizations belonging to the Left front as well as Congress in Kerala protested the ban by organizing ‘beef fests’ across the state.

However, some of the youngsters who belong to the Youth Congress wing of the Congress Party went to the extreme in slaughtering a bull in the open and thereby eliciting strong condemnation from the national leadership in addition to receiving walking papers from the party’s state leadership. It is regrettable that their stupefied action cast a shadow on the merit of their arguments in defense of the constitutional protection from the onslaught of religious fundamentalism and may have negatively impacted on the seriousness of the issue at hand.

Nevertheless, what is most shocking to many of us who are living abroad is the overt and loud reaction to the slaughter of a bull in the open in comparison to the low-key responses to the ongoing lynching of human beings by the self-appointed vigilantes of cow protection. The medieval barbarism by these outlaws was on full display in 2015 when they falsely accused and then dragged Mohammed Akhlaq from his home in Dadri, U.P., to the street and lynched him before the gathering public.

On April 1, 2017, Pehlu Khan and at least four others were injured when a mob attacked them while transporting cows that were legally bought in the market. Khan later succumbed to his injuries suffered at the hands of these vigilantes. In March 2016, two Muslim cattle traders were found hanged to death in Jharkhand’s Latehar district. Mazlum Ansari and teenager Imteyaz Khan were heading to an animal fair in a nearby district when they were allegedly lynched and hanged by a mob.

These are a few of the ongoing instances cruel justice meted out to the human beings and the country and its leadership remained largely silent. With the issuance of this new order, the Gau Rakshak Dal will be further emboldened and will have the license to terrorize farmers and traders across the land.

If the issue is indeed borne out of cruelty to animals, why does this ban only apply to cattle, camels, and buffaloes, but not extended to other species like sheep, goats, and chickens? India exports about 4 billion dollars worth of beef every year, and it looks simply duplicitous on the part of the government to close its eyes to the so-called ‘cruelty’ by these big slaughterhouses, many of them owned and operated by the cronies of those are close to power centers.

This order may effectively cut the flow of red meat to consumers in those states where beef is consumed. All animal markets will be strictly regulated and will be brought under the control of the bureaucrats. As per the new rules, your butcher cannot buy any cattle from the market, and a declaration will have to be signed stating that ‘I promise not to resell the cattle for slaughter.' In short, the center has made it near impossible to buy or sell cattle for meat or animal markets.

By circumventing the legislative process in this instance, the BJP is busy at work promoting its saffron agenda by imposing a uniform diet code on the people of India. This is a direct infringement of the fundamental right of the people as to what to consume, and this order may even have usurped the states’ rights in deciding vital issues that impact its citizens.

The federal structure that stood the test of time since Independence may also be in the crosshairs. The socio-economic consequences from nutrition to the poor and backward in the society who rely on cheap meat as a staple food, and to the small farmers and traders who rely on these animals for their livelihood are yet to be seen.

Mahatma Gandhi, who was a great advocate of Ahimsa, said once: “How can I force anyone not to slaughter cows unless he is himself so disposed? It is not as if there were only Hindus in the Indian Union. There are Muslims, Parsis, Christians and other religious groups here.” Will we hear such sane voices of enlightenment ever from the heartland of India again?

George Abraham,

Chairman,

Indian National Overseas Congress, USA

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