Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said Wednesday that cow protection was part of the freedom movement and what is happening in UP under the new BJP government is in the spirit of that movement.
“I would like all of them [Opposition MPs], particularly the members of the Indian National Congress, to recognise that cow protection was part of our freedom movement,” she said. “There is nothing new in it. Why are we suddenly so agitated about what is happening in Uttar Pradesh? The chief minister is only doing what was very much the spirit behind our freedom movement.”
This was in reply to a debate in Lok Sabha over a bill to declare the Footwear Design and Development Institute (FDDI) an institution of national importance. The bill was later passed by a voice vote, with all amendments suggested by the Opposition defeated.
As Opposition members kept interrupting her reply, the minister said: “Our freedom movement has been fully encouraged and spirited by the cow protection movement… I do not want that to be forgotten, much before we criticise what is happening in UP, which is the legitimate duty of an elected government, and that is what the chief minister is doing there,” she said.
Opposition MPs had raised the issue of cow vigilantism, crackdown on slaughterhouses, stress on vegetarianism and the scarcity of leather.
The minister said that there would be no scarcity of leather as the country, “not today but over the centuries, has had leather tanning and it has given a steady flow of leather. That has never obstructed our own cow protection movements, about which each one of us will have to be proud of and that has been a part of our freedom movement’s call.”
Earlier, Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chaudhary had said: “… Nowadays there has been a great constraint of skin and hide supply… because of some bigots in some areas where we are observing competitive fundamentalism. Someone is saying that Gujarat will be turned into a vegetarian state… But the leather industry could not be run by vegetarians; we need raw hide, skin which could be supplied from butchery,” he said.
CPM MP Mohammed Salim raised the killing of a Muslim man by cow vigilantes in Rajasthan. “In the name of cow protection and for political reasons, people involved in the leather trade are being painted as villains. Yesterday… this man was going with a Jersey cow. He was killed because he had a Muslim name… A particular atmosphere has been created in the country after the electoral verdict in UP.”
The Trinamool Congress’s Saugata Roy said, “Cow slaughter is banned except in West Bengal, Kerala and the Northeastern states… My question is, if the ban continues, where will we get the leather from?”
All these statements were noisily opposed by the treasury benches.