Several states and organisations have slammed the Union government’s decision to ban the sale of cattle for slaughter through animal markets, with the Kerala government saying it would look into the legal aspects of the issue. Claiming that the move was part of an attempt to implement RSS agenda, Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan said, “Crores of people in the country are slaughtering animals for food. Those who consume meat do not belong to any particular religion. Narendra Modi has interfered with people’s right to eat. If cattle is banned today, in future there could be a ban on eating fish.”
“Instead of restraining the Sangh Parivar from assaulting those who transport cattle, the Centre has banned slaughter of cattle. This makes it clear who holds the reins of power at the Centre,” he said, adding that it would lead to job losses, particularly among Dalits. Agriculture Minister V S Sunil Kumar said the state would not accept the order. “We will take steps after looking into the legal aspects of the issue,” he said.
Justifying the Centre’s decision, BJP state president Kummanam Rajasekharan said it had only restricted the sale for slaughter of animals that were used for agricultural purposes. He blamed the media for “distorting” the notification. While cattle merchants in the state voiced apprehension that their business would be affected, the SFI announced a beef festival in 210 centres across Kerala.
Kerala has around 50 weekly cattle markets, where local traders and farmers procure animals. Apart from 5.5 lakh dairy farmers in the state, another 5 lakh people are indirectly involved in cattle trade, slaughterhouses and allied areas. In Goa, 40 per cent of the cattle meat that reaches the tourist market comes from Goa Meat Complex, the state-run abattoir. The remaining 60 per cent is sourced from cold storage. Anwar Bepari of Qureshi Meat Traders Association and others were unsure of the source and supply chain following the issuance of new rules. “We have written to the animal husbandry department for directions,” said Dr Uday Pednekar, Managing Director of Goa Meat Complex.
Agriculture Minister Vijay Sardesai said he would read the notification before commenting. Tamil Nadu Leader of Opposition and DMK leader M K Stalin tweeted, “Repeal the Beef Ban Law immediately that infringes on the right of every citizen to make their food choices. #beefban.” In West Bengal, a senior minister said the new rules were rooted in “divisive politics”. “This was a democracy where people can eat what they want. West Bengal has a large Muslim population that eats beef, we will not stop that,” he said.
West Bengal Beef Dealers Association president Mohammad Ali said, “Modiji’s diktat does not hold in Bengal. We have licences for cow slaughter and beef supply. Unless the state issues a circular, we will not stop operations.” The move has Punjab’s dairy farmers and tannery workers worried. Progressive Dairy Farmers Association president Daljit Singh said, “The rules will ruin small, marginal and landless farmers, who cannot do the documentation.. Middlemen will eat into their business.” The Jalandhar-based hide trade also slammed the decision.
In Maharashtra, the decision did not go down well with Swabhimani Paksha MP Raju Shetti, an NDA ally. “Unproductive animals are millstones around farmer’s necks. We will tie such animals outside the houses of BJP leaders,” he said. AIMIM MLA from Aurangabad Imtiaz Jaleel warned of similar protests. Other states such as Gujarat welcomed the move. Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana said they would implement the directives even though they already had similar rules in place. However, Sabir Qureshi, secretary of Jaipur Meat Merchants Association, said, “There shouldn’t be so many rules. The process should be easier.”
(Inputs from Arun Janardhanan, Anju Agnihotri Chaba, Partha Sarathi Biswas, Sreenivas Janyala, Hamza Khan)