an emerging reality in Modi’s India
The long anticipated cow slaughter ban across India under the BJP rule is already here! Most observers were expecting a legislative move probably after the 2019 election when BJP could muster majorities at both houses of the parliament. However, the Modi Sarkar found an ingenious way to test these waters under the guise of the ‘Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act’ that was enacted in 1960 to prevent the infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering on animals. 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 did 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 Mr. Mohammed Akhlaq from his home in Dadri, U.P. to the street and lynched him before the gathering public. On 1 April 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 in his fifties 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. According to the report in The Indian Express, a 20-year old truck driver from Saharanpur was lynched by a village mob in Himachal Pradesh allegedly for carrying cattle from Uttar Pradesh. Mustin Abbas, a 27-year-old father of four, was traveling back home after buying bulls from Haryana was allegedly fired upon by Gau Raksha Dal members on April 5, 2016. A month later, a probe into his murder was ordered, according to ‘The Wire.’ In an incident that went viral on the social media, on 11 July, 2016 Dalit youths were beaten up outside Mota Samadhiyala village, when they were skinning a dead cow brought from Bediya village. The victims included Vashram Sarvaiya, His broter Ramesh, and their cousins Ashok an Bechar, all residents of Mota Samadhiyala. Later the members of Gau Rakshak Dal took them to nearby Una town and again thrashed them with sticks and iron rods after tying them to a vehicle. They were paraded half-naked on the road in full display of public view. These are 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 this ban only applies 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, BJP is busy at work promoting its saffron agenda by imposing a uniform diet code on the people of India.
The reason they have rushed it through as a directive may have dual purposes. The first and foremost will be to sow the seeds of division and intolerance well before the upcoming 2019 campaign, a vital environment to profit from. Also, 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 State 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! However, let us not be under any illusion that all these developments are taking place in a vacuum. But rather, it is part of a calculated plan being implemented by the Modi-Shah power structure to impose a majoritarian view and rule on the country thereby undoing the progress achieved post-independence under the Nehruvian vision: respect for the minority religions and its traditions and equal protection under the law.
The regressive forces that were in control of the nation in collusion with colonial powers are back indeed, and they are back with a vengeance! 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! (Writer is a former Chief Technology Officer of the United Nations and Chairman of the Indian National Overseas Congress, USA)