The government approves the Regulation of Livestock Markets 2017, which applies to livestock bought and sold for slaughter. New health rules ban using animals for sacrifices. This will cause huge damage to the economy. Dalit and Muslims will be deprived of their main source of protein.
New Delhi (AsiaNews) - With a decision that has generated fierce criticism, the Indian government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has banned cow meat all over the country. As of 26 May, it is no longer possible to sell or buy livestock for slaughter.
"This is a new form of terrorism by cow vigilante groups who have killed many people, in particular minorities,” said Lenin Raghuvanshi, a well-known activist and executive director of the Varanasi Peoples' Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) who spoke to AsiaNews.
Ram Puniyani, president of the Center for Study of Society and Secularism in Mumbai, agrees. "The government is using sacred cows to spread hatred against religious minorities and Dalits. Restrictions seek to break the backs of poor farmers and Muslims. By claiming the superiority of the the vegetarian diet, the authorities are imposing the Hindutva agenda."
“By doing so, the government is using all legal, administrative and political means to relegate minorities and the poor to the status of second-class citizens,” Puniyani added.
Meanwhile opposition parties blame the "fascist forces of the nationalist right," boosted since the Bharatya Janata Party came to power, and their attempt to create tensions between the communities.
For some leaders, "This is an attempt by Sangh Parivar to impose its divisive agenda". The ban “reflects the policy of the RSS against minorities" and “will lead to sectarian frictions, afflict the livelihood of millions, and have a huge impact on agriculture." Sadly, "Fundamental rights have been broken in the attempt to polarise society."
The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules 2017 come from the Union Environment Ministry, and applies to all cattle, including bulls, cows, buffaloes, sheep, calves and camels. It imposes new health regulations, and a lot of red tape to register livestock and ensure that animals are not used in religious rituals.
The new rules have outraged some state governors, especially in Kerala and West Bengal, who complain of Delhi's interference in state affairs.
"The government has no right to decide what people should eat," said an incensed Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. “We will not accept the decision. It is unconstitutional. We will challenge it by legal means,” said West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Cows are sacred in India`s Hindu tradition and eating them is an outrage to the gods. In many states, the ban on eating and slaughtering cattle is already in place, like in Uttar Pradesh, which has shut down illegal slaughterhouses, and in Gujarat which has increased the penalties, including life in prison, for those who violate the law.
The meat ban affects millions of poor people and Dalits who cannot afford to buy expensive food like fish. What is more, it is an intrusion into the culinary traditions of Christians and Muslims, who could now suffer even more from "cow vigilantes". In fact, the suspicion of illegal slaughtering a cow alone can trigger acts of extreme violence, including beatings, lynching, and killing.
In addition, the law will cause major damage to the sector, whose annual turnover is more than a trillion rupees (more than US$ 15 billion), including 263 billion rupees (US$ 4 billion) in exports.
According to Raghuvanshi, the government's goal is to impose the traditional vegetarian diet called `Vaishnava Hindu', and "claim that all India is vegetarian. This goes against the right to choose the food one eats."
In addition, it sends "an alarming signal about malnutrition and hunger" in the country and "deprives Dalits, tribal people and [religious] minoriies of a source of protein, given the high cost of legumes."
Last but not least, he notes that the Hindu Shakti sect "performs ritual sacrifices using animals like buffaloes and birds. Thus, various kinds of animals are already used in rituals."