Mumbai (AsiaNews) – The protests of peasants and workers against the ban on the sale and consumption of beef show no sign of ending in Maharashtra. Now the Republican Party of India (RPI-A), the regional party ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, Hindu nationalist) in the state government, has sided with the protesters and promised to boycott the government if the controversial law is not repealed.
A local AsiaNews source, asking not to be named, says: "It is a law that sweeps away the cosmopolitan character of this State. In fact it says that religious minorities and those belonging to the lower castes do not matter. "
In Hinduism the cow is believed to be a manifestation of the divine and is considered sacred: killing or eating the animal is considered a sin, and the Brahmins (priests, the highest caste - ed) must refrain from doing so.
Only Dalits (outcasts) - considered impure and therefore also called "untouchables" - may consume and touch it, working with cow hides. Beef is also part of the traditional diet of Christians and Muslims, both religious minorities in the country.
"The problem - the source tells AsiaNews - is that many people worked in the meat industry in Maharashtra: butchers, exporters, tanners. The introduction of this law has affected not only the 'diet', but the survival of many families. India is a poor country: no one can deprive a community of its work from one day to the next".
In Mumbai alone - capital of Maharahstra, "economic" capital of India and second largest city in the country - there are about 900 shops that sell beef, which employed about 3,600. A market operated mostly by the Querishi Islamic community. Overall, according to some estimates the law has affected about 10.5 million people who depend on the beef trade.
The introduction of the law, says the source, "was a highly symbolic gesture, because it represents only the interests of the higher castes. The State compels all people to accept a vision that does not belong to everyone. It leaves no freedom of choice and subdues the people of the lower castes and minorities. "
For this reason, the RPI-A, despite being an ally of the BJP, has now joined the protest: it is a party made up of members of the lower castes, which was elected on promises that it would represent their interests.