There’s difference between ‘please don’t eat beef’ and ‘stop eating beef now’: Himanta Biswa Sarma

With two BJP leaders in Meghalaya leaving the party over the Centre’s contentious notification on cattle sale, and the issue far from dying, Himanta Biswa Sarma, Assam minister and convenor of North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), the NDA’s Northeast avatar, tells Abantika Ghosh that the issue will not impact the BJP’s ambitions in the region, and the party is only “requesting” people to shun beef.

Written by Abantika Ghosh | Published: June 7, 2017 12:49 am
Himanta Biswa Sarma, Minister for Education, Health and Finance (Assam), at Idea Exchange. Express photo by Cheena Kapoor

BJP has big ambitions in the Northeast. What impact would the cattle notification have on that?

People of the Northeast understand that there is no ban on eating beef, (that there has been) no attempt to control individual food choices. These are just some regulations about where and in what conditions beef can be sold, which were brought because there was a Supreme Court order. The government is bound to obey the court, so these regulations should not be seen as an interference in what people eat.

BJP leaders in Meghalaya have already resigned, apparently because they were unhappy with the notification.
Meghalaya is a different issue. We are in the process of reorganising the district BJP offices. Both these people (who quit) were in running for the post of president of their respective districts — Garo Hills and Khasi Hills. Both have now been eliminated from the race, and they have resigned because of that. It has nothing to do with beef. They were encouraged by the Meghalaya chief minister (Congress’s Mukul Sangma), who knows he cannot fight BJP on (the issue of) development.

Have BJP leaders from any other state raised this issue at any level within the party?

None whatsoever, not even in private conversations…if the angst is indeed as great as is being made out by the Meghalaya resignations, why aren’t people from Mizoram, Manipur, Assam, Nagaland raising it as well? I am currently in Karbi Anglong (Assam), where the Hill Council elections are on. Thirty per cent people here are Christians …nowhere was this issue raised. I have travelled in other states also, and there was nothing to suggest people were upset about this. People are not changing their food habits — they understand these are just some regulations related to markets.

There is a perception that the regulations will make it impossible for small-time beef traders to survive. There are concerns that corporatisation would raise prices, making beef unaffordable for the poor.
Regulations on beef trade are not new. There are existing norms — not to sell it in crowded places, near places of worship, etc, (and) this is one more such regulation. I do not know about beef prices, but had they gone up, the local media would certainly have written about it. I do not recall (seeing) any such report.

Is it BJP’s position then that people in the Northeast can eat beef?

Only yesterday, RSS leader Indresh Kumar told people in Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi, to shun meat.
We believe in Gandhian principles, we believe in the Constitution… So BJP has the right to ask people to do so… Does the Congress want to change the Constitution? By Directive Principles of State Policy we are obliged not to propagate cow slaughter. There is nothing wrong in saying that cow is holy, that we worship the cow. What is wrong with what Indreshji said? Mahatma Gandhi said it all his life… We are not imposing our ideas on anybody, but we have the right to request people. There is a difference between saying “Please don’t eat beef”, and saying “Stop eating beef now.”

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  1. P
    Jun 8, 2017 at 6:01 am
    Sir, it cannot be wrong to obey and implement the guidelines in honorable SC's verdict on beef matters.BJP and RSS are not doing politics on this matter, rather they are trying their best to change food habit to a better and healthy one.
    1. S
      sk milan
      Jun 8, 2017 at 12:37 am
      Sir , it is the open truth that BJP is doing politics regarding beef. Specifically it bkms a major issue if a special community eat beef or seen with a cow. It has nothing to deal with other community. So whenever some BJP leaders talks on not banning beef or they will provide beef in low cost if BJP comes into power in some partucular state it bkms a ridiculous statement.u too witnessed wt is going on all over India after the advent of your present party in power. May there be less cases in North East but slowly it also following the same like other state . So plz stop all these nd let people live according to their choice .
      1. K
        Kyu ki main sab saach bolta hu
        Jun 7, 2017 at 11:52 pm
        Baad diya hain moi hodai beef kham...☺☺☺☺☺☺..beef ban..but murder of innocent people in the name of beef ban is good deed in the eyes of bjp. Now bjp gona take over our kitchen also..kya baat hain bhailog..ek kaam karo kitchen ka pura essential bhi laa dena toh jara..earn karu main,, aur kya khao ya na khao,yeh decision bjp kareyga. If cow is a holy animal for you all.then all supporter of bjp keep your cow inside your home..give them luxurious bed to sleep etc.. Agar yeh kar sakta hain,tabhi bolna gai hamari mata hain.kyuki hum apna maa kou ghar kay bahar nehi rakhtey hain tum log bhi apna ghar ka under cow can be a mother of human being..kabhi dekha hain kya cow ney inshan kou janam diya hain..we humans are above all creation..every animal has got some purpose, but tumlog cow ka marketing itna kyu kar rahey hou..bjp supporters plz abhi apney mother cow kou ghar ka under main ley aao..mujhay tumlogo ka mother cow ka haallat dekha nehi ja raha hain..☺☺☺☺☺☺☺
        1. R
          Ram Bhakt
          Jun 7, 2017 at 9:31 am
          Dalits,Muslims etc must stop behaving like Raksha other wise Modiji and Yogiji will have to civilize them.Jai Shree Ram!
          1. C
            Citizen of India
            Jun 7, 2017 at 9:46 am
            What do you mean by Raksha? Do not you people eat chicken,mutton? Atleast you drink cow milk but the way of stea the share of baby calf. If eating beef is Raksha than your chicken,mutton and fish are also same...If you drink milk than you are a beggar who steal the share of the baby calf.
          2. B
            Jun 7, 2017 at 8:45 am
            In a country with such a high population the difference in view is a normal thing. We have reached at such a point that non of the view, how noble it is, is accepted by all because of the diversity in our society. Even Mahatma hi was not accepted by all & finally he was assinated. To run a country or even a family also it is good to have like minded member. In early age religion was playing this role & people are believing some value in the life. Yeah it is also true religion had gone to the extent of some nonsense level. Because of some nonsense activities in the religion we rejected the total religion & put it to the back seat is b er mistake we have done. What we should have done is that we would have removed the exaggerated practice & follow the pure religion in-order to control the m easily. unfortunately not happened. I still not understand the beauty of diversity where a person like hi can not survive. Need of the time is to have a common faith .
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