ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Maharashtra's Beef Ban

The Bharatiya Janata Party has claimed that it has merely fulfilled a long-pending promise to the electorate by bringing in a law banning the sale, purchase and possession of beef in Maharashtra. The arguments given by the proponents of the ban fail to stand scrutiny and it seems to have been pushed only to attack the dietary habits and livelihoods of Muslims, Dalits, Christians and other beef-consuming communities. Interestingly, it may well have negative consequences for the rural economy too.

Beef-sellers sitting idle; cold storage stores turning away customers; small Muslim eateries wondering how long they can serve buffalo meat at Rs 30 a plate; leather goods traders contemplating a bleak future, and at the country’s biggest abattoir, Deonar, butchers staring at empty stalls while outside, a ring of policemen prevents anyone bringing a bull or calf for slaughter. In the first week of March, the world changed overnight for all these people, only because their government decided they would not allow the meat of certain animals to be eaten.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has put up posters across Mumbai celebrating its achievement: bringing a ban on cow slaughter. The posters depict the party’s beloved white-as-snow gentle-eyed cow. But the posters tell a lie; the cow has been protected from slaughter in Maharashtra from as far back as 1976, when it was banned during the Emergency. That bill received the President’s assent in 1977. This new law — Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act, 1995 — prohibits the slaughter of bulls, bullocks and calves, in addition to cows. The only bovine that can now be slaughtered is the buffalo, which is not considered sacred, while the cow and the bull (Nandi) are.

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