With influential Muslims and the Roman Catholic Church in the state backing a civil society collective called Goa for Beef — Beef for Goa, the Qureshi Meat Traders Association filed a writ petition Monday before the Goa bench of the Bombay High Court, seeking a stay on the May 26 central notification banning the sale and purchase of cattle from animal markets for slaughter. The Qureshi Meat Traders Association, part of the collective, made the Union and state governments respondents in the petition — the Manohar Parrikar government has been silent on the central notification that has hit Goa’s meat industry and tourism. The collective expects to hear the “justification behind the ban on trading at cattle markets”.
Anwar Bepari, representing the Qureshi Meat Traders Association, said one of the important points raised in the petition is the ban on purchase of animals for religious sacrifice. “This is important for us because in two months we have Bakr Eid which will open other issues if this notification goes through.”
The collective, which has held meetings at the Clergy Home in Margao, was formed after the June 1 incident when trucks travelling to transport bullocks were stopped at the Goa-Karnataka border following the central notification.
Abdul Matin, representing the Muslim community, said the collective was formed because they found no representation from the new government on the beef issue. “We were tired of their silence when other state governments and chief ministers were sending letters against the notification,” Matin said.
Calling the collective a product of “inter-faith dialogue”, Father Savio Fernandes, its co-convener, said “it was the need of our times”. He is also executive secretary of Council for Social Justice and Peace, “a body of the Church” formed in 2005 to look into cases of rights violations.
“We were quiet but now the issue affects livelihood and is an act of infringement,” Father Fernandes said of the central notification.
“In this collective, there are three formal members — the Church’s body, that is this office; the Muslim community; and, representatives of the meat traders in Goa. We have come together specifically for this issue as this is is a direct attack on the secular nature of our country. We now feel that the time has come where we will have to meet more often than before. Inter-faith dialogues will have to increase,” he said.
In meetings in Margao and at the office of the Council for Social Justice and Peace, convenors and meat traders highlighted loss of livelihood because of the notification — the state relies on cattle markets in Karnataka and the slaughter house in Ponda for beef.
“Beef was always the cheapest food in Goa and forms an important weekend dish in most households. Even our traditional cuisine is styled around beef,” Father Fernandes said. “Priests have been sending us feedback from the people. In fact, we are seeing it ourselves.
Many restaurants in Goa have started putting ‘beef not served here’ signs… they do not want trouble,” he said.
Bepari said: “Without the market, there is no space to look. With incidents of lynching, one cannot travel anywhere and pick up cattle from any farmer. We are telling our problems to the court through this writ petition since no one seems to be representing us. We are looking to see if there are legal remedies available. Livelihood is not just restricted to us, there are many sectors that will be affected.”