ON A day the ruling parties of Kerala and West Bengal, and the main Opposition in Tamil Nadu, raised the pitch of their protest against the Centre’s decision to bar sale of cattle for slaughter at animal markets, the otherwise acrimonious CPI(M)-led LDF and Congress-led UDF in Kerala stood on the same page on Saturday. Supporters of both fronts organised beef festivals across the state, cooked meat in the open, and their leaders — Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Leader of Opposition in state Assembly Ramesh Chennithala — wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeking withdrawal of the decision.
In Thiruvananthapuram, senior Congress leader and former Union minister A K Antony said the Centre’s notification should be “torn to bits” and “dumped in a dust-bin”. In Delhi, the CPI(M) said the decision will “destroy” the livelihood of crores of farmers and affect the leather industry. “The notification is an atrocious attempt by the Modi government to give legal cover for its wholly communal and divisive agenda to impose a diet code on the country,” the Politburo stated. “The CPI(M) strongly condemns and opposes the notification and demands its withdrawal.”
In his letter to Modi, Vijayan said the notification on cattle trade would have serious impact on livelihood of millions. “The absence of efforts to take the states into confidence on such a drastic move, with far-reaching consequences, is detrimental to our democracy. I am afraid it amounts to an intrusion into rights of the states in our federal structure,” Vijayan wrote. With nearly 30 per cent farmers in India engaged in cattle-rearing and trade, Chennithala wrote, the decision would adversely affect the livelihood of millions.
West Bengal Education Minister and Trinamool Congress spokesperson Partha Chatterjee said that the Modi government has taken a “unilateral decision…in complete violation of the federal structure”. He said, “Until we receive such a circular, the West Bengal government cannot take a decision on the issue.” Stating that any such move is likely to affect the leather industry in the state badly, Chatterjee said, “We don’t want to impose a ban on people’s food habits. It’s an infringement of fundamental rights. Who are we (government) to decide what people should eat and not eat?”
In Kerala, protesters cooked and distributed beef outside the Secretariat in Thiruvanantha-puram. “We will eat beef to show our protest against the Centre. We want to tell this to Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” DYFI national president Mohammed Riyaz, who led the protest, said, according to PTI. DYFI is the youth front of CPI(M). In Kollam district,protesting Congress workers cooked beef in front of the party office. District Congress chief Bindu Krishna said “beef delicacy will be packed and sent to the head post office for delivery to Modi-ji”.
In Kochi, Tourism and Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran participated in a ‘beef fest’, where bread and beef curry was served. In Thodupuzha in Idukki district, protesters took out a march with the head of a buffalo. Kerala Animal Husbandry Minister K Raju said the state will frame a special rule on sale of cattle if the Centre refuses to withdraw the notification.
At Yercaud in Tamil Nadu, Chief Minister K Palaniswami said he is yet to receive complete information about the ban. “I can reply only after fully studying it (notification),” PTI quoted him as saying. Opposition DMK’s working president M K Stalin said the Centre should not curtail the freedom of choice in food. “Since they (Centre) cannot claim any achievements (in three years of Modi government), they have brought new rules to hide it,” he told reporters at Chennai.
(With PTI inputs from Thiruvananthapuram, Chennai, Yercaud)