Mumbai (AsiaNews) - Five years in prison and a fine of at least 10 thousand rupees (145 €) is what people who sell, own or eat beef in Maharashtra will face. Yesterday the President of India approved a law banning the slaughter, sale, export and consumption of cows, bulls and steers in the western state of India. As of today only the consumption of buffalo meat is only allowed, whether at home or in a five star hotel.
It took 19 years for the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendmrnt) Bill to become law. Introduced for the first time in 1995 by the coalition government Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, Hindu nationalists) - Shiv Sena (Marathi regional party), in 1996 it made its way to the president's table, but without ever being approved. After its victory in the general elections last year, the BJP again pushed for the decree becomes law.
Out of a total population of 1.2 billion people, 80% are Hindu. In Hinduism the cow is considered sacred and this is why many Indian states have restrictions on the consumption and sale of beef, even though the law introduced in Maharashtra is considered the strictest in the country. In fact, most of the beef sold in India comes from water buffalo, which are not considered sacred. However, this meat is considered of inferior quality and in Maharashtra accounts for only 25% of the market.
Precisely because of religious issues and restrictions
already in several states, most of the beef is exported: with a 20% share of
the global market and exports for more than 4 billion dollars a year, it now
represents the country's biggest export product, even beating the famous
The law will affect about 10.5 million people who depend on the beef trade, a market controlled mostly by the Querishi Muslim community. Dalits ("untouchables") are involved in the trade of leather and transport of cattle.
In Mumbai alone - the capital of Maharashtra and
"financial" capital of India - there are 900 beef stalls, and as many
unlicensed. Mohammed Ali Querishi, president of Mumbai Beef Dealers Association,
says: "Each one employs at least four people, plus thousands associated
with transportation. All these people will be affected by the ban."
Even members of the Christian community have protested against the law. Gordon D'Souza, president of the Bombay Catholic Sabha, said that the beef is an important part of the non-vegetarian diet. "Religion - he explains - is something personal, and the government should not mix it with their laws".