The J&K High Court has directed the government to strictly enforce the ban on sale of beef in the state. The court direction came in a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by a Jammu resident.
The slaughter of bovines and sale of beef is banned in Jammu and Kashmir since the pre-Partition era when the then princely state was ruled by the Dogra rulers. In the Dogra era, the ban was strictly enforced across the state.
However, after elected governments took over, there was a relaxation in the sale of beef. While the slaughter of bovines and the sale of beef were strictly banned in the Hindu majority areas of Jammu, beef was sold at many places in Muslim majority Kashmir.
In 1986, some Hindu groups demanded strict implementation of the ban on the sale of beef. An offshoot of the beef controversy was that it brought to centre stage a little known cleric in south Kashmir. Qazi Nisar, the cleric, slaughtered a cow in the main chowk in Anantnag turning him into a leader and one of the founders of the Muslim United Front (MUF), an amalgam of religious parties which took on the Congress-National Conference coalition in the 1987 elections – the alleged rigging of that election resulted in the rise of militancy in Kashmir.
This time too, the beef ban is snowballing into a major controversy with separatists terming it an “interference in the religion”. They have already announced street protests and called for a shutdown. In fact, women separatist leader Andrabi slaughtered a cow on Thursday in defiance of the high court order.
Though traditionally Kashmiris prefer mutton over beef, especially in the urban centres, the high court order is seen as an attack on religious identity– especially in Kashmir. With Maharashtra at the back of the mind and the BJP a coalition partner in the J&K government, people see this as part of a “Hindutva plan” which could well mean more unrest in the Muslim areas of the valley.