Bharat needs Cow Slaughter Ban Legislation
Among a slew of reforms that the Administrator Praful Patel has proposed in the Union Territory (UT) of Lakshadweep, ban on beef products is one of them which the Opposition Parties have termed as ‘anti-people’ and have demanded the Centre to recall him. This malicious and vacuous Halla Bol is being launched by the Opposition to protest Patel’s campaign to end corrupt practices in the region, for the Order seeks to ban the slaughter of cow, calf, etc. without a certificate from a competent authority; it prohibits the sale, transport and storage of beef and beef products. The Opposition views the rule as a direct infringement on the culture of the area and the eating habits of the people.
It shows that the Opposition has decided to deliberately forget the Culture of Communal harmony and amity which corresponds to the ‘tahjib’ of this country -we should bring the communities together rather than deepen the divisions between them. Those protesting with vested interests have decided to deliberately forget the Muslin leaders’ intervention made in 1948, and will not allow to settle the cow slaughter issue even in the 21st century- “It is better to come forward and incorporate a clause in Fundamental Rights that cow slaughter is henceforth prohibited, rather than it being left vague in the Directive Principles…”, said Zahir-Ul-Hasan Lari in the Constituent Assembly on 24th November,1948. Speaking on behalf of Muslims, Syed Mohammad Saadulla said “…the cow should be protected from slaughter and therefore, we want its provision either in the Fundamental Rights or in the Directive Principles.” Lari and Saadula’s arguments were in response to an amendment moved by Congress leader Thakur Das Bhargava, this amendment later became Article 48 of the Indian Constitution, and is a part of the Directive Principles of State Policy.
Despite the motives being different, there has always existed unanimity of the objective that the cow slaughter be banned. The rationale behind a nationwide cow slaughter ban is based on some solid reasons. Killing and consuming of cows is a sin on religious and traditional grounds; this tradition has been upheld for thousands of years and was respected even by the Muslim Kings and Emperors as diverse as Babar and Hyder Ali. Can you fight your own identity? While you may say all that is in the past, that is not actually so. Even today most Hindus still do not believe in eating beef, and this majority sentiment has to be respected. Cow is an environmental marvel for Indians. The farmer uses cows to cultivate the fields. The milk is used as part of the dairy industry. Even the cow dung has its uses; it is a disinfectant that is plastered on village houses, and in its dry form is used for cooking or in gobar gas plants and even as manure. In a court case, the Gujarat Government compared gobar to a Kohinoor diamond and the Supreme Court appreciated that. In many areas in the world, cows are cultivated in large number just for beef and that has had catastrophic environmental impact on total land used for grazing, greenhouse emissions and water usage and effects on polluting aquatic ecosystems. We cannot afford bring that type of culture to Bharat, i.e., India. India has a much greater emotional attachment with cow. The cow is revered in rural India; even in cities people touch the cows as a mark of reverence and seek their blessings.
Article 48 of the Directive Principles of State Policy declares that the State shall take steps for preserving and improving the breeds, and prohibiting the slaughter of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle. That was the guiding principle for laws to be framed after Independence and in 1950 the legislation was brought in West Bengal and Assam and in 1954 in Uttar Pradesh and Haryana; after this in Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Karnataka. Most of the current States have framed some sort of legislation related to beef and cow slaughter. It’s just a question of following the law of the land. Why should Lakshadweep remain an exception? It is high time that the country formed a National Cow Slaughter Ban Bill.
Most of the Hindu Kings supported a permanent ban on cow slaughter, and they were supported by Hindu Organizations. During the Freedom Struggle, the likes of Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Lala Lajpat Rai were strong proponents of a total ban. Now it’s time to complete this unfinished business. The Supreme Court in 2005 in a decisive6-1 verdict advocated a complete ban on Cow slaughter- “This is the land of Mahatma Gandhi, Vinoba, Mahaveer, Buddha, Nanak and others. It will be an act of reprehensible ingratitude to condemn cattle in old age as useless and send them to a slaughterhouse. We have to remember that the weak and meek need more protection and compassion.
It has been a hundred years since the Muslim community voluntarily gave up eating beef in India. In 1919, the idea of refraining from cow slaughter was conceived by nationalist Muslims like Maulana Mohammad Ali, Shaukat Ali, Hakim Ajmal Khan, Mian Haji Ahmed Khatri, Mian Chhotani, Maulana Abdul Bari and Maulana Abdul Bariand Maulana Hussain Ahmad Madani who took active part in the Mahatma Gandhi-led Khilafat Movement that began in 1919. Another leading movement of that era was by Khwaja Hasan Nijami, a revered Sufi who wrote a book Tark-e ga’o kushi (which means refraining from cow slaughter). NIzami who had a massive appeal among the followers of Chishtia Silsila (Sufi Order), cited Mughal Emperor Akbar’s decree prohibiting cow slaughter for their daily consumption or as a mass ritual performed at Eid-ul-Zuha. Very recently, Mustafa pleading in the Supreme Court in 2017 said “Muslims have consistently been in favour of a ban on cow slaughter. Emperor Babar had willed to Humanyun not to permit cow slaughter as Hindus will find it offensive.
Our Freedom Fighters fought for cow slaughter ban. Thereafter, the Congress implemented cow slaughter ban legislation in most States. Its successor the BJP is a strong advocator of the ban. If both the larger national political parties have taken India in one direction, one doesn’t have much choice but to follow that path.
A much- forgotten event in Indian history is the 1966 agitation when thousand of Sadhus tried to storm Parliament to force a nationwide ban and the Shankaracharya went on a fast. There was a total law and order breakdown in New Delhi as many died in police firing. Congress President K. Kamaraj’s house was burnt down and Home Minister Gulzarilal Nanda resigned.
Cow/ cattle slaughter has also been opposed by various Indian religions because of the ethical principal of Ahimsa(non-violence) and the belief in the unity of all life. Thus, there seems to be no valid reason of Protest. The Cow slaughter Ban shall ensure the economic prosperity of the UT and contribute immensely in making Lakshadweep develop as a tourist destination like Maldives. Rather than making a malicious and vacuous halla bol, it is the time for the Opposition to take a lead and be a part of the golden handshake bonanza by supporting the cow slaughter ban legislation which shall strengthen the communal harmony and promote economic prosperity in the Union Territory of Lakshaweep.
(The writer is Professor & Head, Department of English, Maharaja Ganga Singh University, Bikaner.)
By Dr Suresh Kumar Agrawal