Tripura’s Left Front government will not implement the cattle trade and slaughter rule, which the government in the Northeastern state said goes against the “interest of people”. The Left Front said the rules were a blatant bid to communalise the act of eating, while at the same time it would harm the agrarian economy of the nation.
A BJP spokesperson, however, said the rules were not communal as they put restrictions not just on cows, but buffalos “which are still sacrificed in Hindu festivals”. Tripura will face Assembly elections in 2018 and the BJP has, over the past two years, become a more visible force in the Left-dominated state.
Tripura Agriculture and Animal Resource Development Minister Aghore Debbarma said the central rule was “against the interest of the people” and would not be followed. He added that the government had not been consulted in the matter. CPM leader Gautam Das said the rule would spell “disaster” for the agrarian economy of India. “If poor farmers can’t sell their cattle, then how can they take care of livestock once they become a burden. This is simply a recipe for disaster. Cattle occupies a very significant position in the agrarian economy of India and this move will disrupt it.”
He added: “A large section of people in the state, particularly those belonging to the Dalit community, are entirely dependent on the leather trade for sustenance. But with this new rule, where will cattle skin come from. Moreover, how can the Centre determine what or how a person eats. The right to food is a fundamental right.”
Das added that the move was against the ethos of India’s federal democratic structure. A government official added that another aspect of the new rules, which would adversely impact Tripura, was the ruling that no animal market can exist within 50 km from an international border. An official said: “There are a number of weekly cattle markets and general markets, located less than 50 km from the border. These markets have existed for decades. Simply saying that these markets should be stopped betrays the ignorance of the Centre.” The BJP has denied the allegations.
According to party spokesperson Mrinal Kanti Deb, the rules are “not communal”, since they include “buffaloes which are sacrificed by Hindus”. “The rules are because of a Supreme Court judgment of 2014. A review petition had been filed and on the basis of that, a committee was formed and then the new rules were framed. There is no attempt to communalise the matter. Had that been the case, then buffaloes would not be included,” Deb said. He added that the rules only stipulated that cattle could not be sold at markets for the purpose of slaughter, suggesting instead that “farmers can continue to trade directly with each other”.