India, where people derive their nationhood from the phrase, “unity in diversity”, a land of mixed cultures closely knitted together with the pride of identifying as the largest democracy in the world. Even so, it cannot be held that the process of administration is a flowery one rather it is a rocky ride, with complications stirring up every now and then. One such complication that has captured the spotlight recently, centers around the topic of beef ban and prohibition of the slaughter of cattle across many Indian states. There has been a recent upsurge of debates focusing on the issue. This article is aimed at delving deeper into the facts of the mater and analyzing it.
Ever since the BJHP government has come into power at the center, “Hindutva” has become a household term. This essentially refers to a set of ideologies that portrays extreme forms of nationalism. The same has been misinterpreted by some to be a representative of “Hindu culture”. Using this as a basis of argument, the believers of the above stated philosophy plead for the total ban of the slaughter of cattle, as cows are considered to be sacred in the Hindu religion and hence, cannot be eaten. However, some would beg to differ, as there are references in the Rig Veda, that cows were verily considered as food during the times and were eaten(Why I am a Hindu, Shashi Tharoor,2018), which negates the very point. Many view the issue of banning cow slaughter as just another tool , as a politically calculated move for appeasing the Hindu majority of the country.
On January 2021, the Karnataka government took a drastic measure of banning the slaughter of cows by enacting the “Prevention of slaughter and preservation of cattle bill,2020”. This new law has increased the penalty for slaughter of cattle by minimum 3 years to maximum 7 years of imprisonment and fine of minimum Rs.50,000 to a maximum of Rs.5,00,000. The bill has also enacted Article 48 of the Indian Constitution 1949, that states , “Organisation of agriculture and animal husbandry The State shall endeavor to organize agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and shall, in particular, take steps for preserving and improving the breeds, and prohibiting the slaughter, of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle” Various other states followed suit such as, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh have also completely banned the slaughter of cows in line with Article 48 of the Constitution. All states and union territories, except Arunachal Pradesh, Kerala, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Lakshadweep have laws on cow slaughter. Laws banning cow slaughter in nearly half of the states are roughly 50 years old, and were enacted during the tenure of the Indian National Congress.
However, as sensitive a topic as this, was not free from criticism. Several grounds have been unearthed on the basis of which this can be criticized. 1) Farmers often sell the non lactating cows to slaughter houses, keeping them would only increase their economic burden and nothing less. 2) Beef is a source of protein for various sections of people who may or may not share similar faith. Banning their slaughter would indirectly hamper the source of nourishment of such communities.3)
This law would further cripple the export market of beef and push people deeper into poverty. 4) Sections 16 and 17 of the 2015 cow protection laws (in many states) empower private parties, to help enforce the state’s draconian cattle laws. Similar is the case for Mahasrashtra and Gujarat. And Haryana Gau Seva Ayog, established to oversee implementation of cow protection laws in the state, has members that run cow vigilante groups, with several accusations of vigilante attacks. (via: https://cjp.org.in/cow-slaughter-prevention-laws-in-india).
Concerning such developments, furors have been seen countrywide. The non supporters of the decision even hold that it is a violation of Fundamental right to Freedom guaranteed under article 19 of the Indian Constitution. Even though the demand for putting a ban on slaughter of cattle had been pleaded for by many previously, it was largely motivated by religious sentiments. The punishment for the offense of cattle slaughter have been made extremely stringent in contemporary times and need to be reformed as it is a legitimate occupation of many and the source of “ bread and butter” for an even greater number.
This article is written by Hirak Roy Chowdhury of ASUTOSH COLLEGE, CALCUTTA UNIVERSITY.