The ban is highly divisive and discriminatory. It has divided citizens into two groups: those who do not eat cattle meat and think themselves to be morally superior, and those who are regarded as morally inferior because they eat such meat.
By Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam
Like note ban, nobody knows whom the current beef ban is going to benefit. All that we know is that it has created extraordinary problems for the livelihood of two crore people, aggravated goonda attacks by cow vigilantes on random victims (mostly Muslim) and accentuated the anti-Muslim slant of the Modi government at the Centre and Yogi government in UP.
The new rules, gazetted and announced on May 23, five days before the onset of the holy month of Ramazan, also make them stink of anti-Muslim prejudice as all cow campaigns have a clear anti-Muslim cutting edge to them. As the cow protection campaign track record shows, Muslims are special targets for organised violence. The new wave of murder of Muslims, which began last year from the lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq over suspicion of his storing beef, has taken many Muslim lives since then at different places in India. These trends will be strengthened by the new rules.
The new rules prohibit the sale of “cattle” for slaughter. Under the new rules “cattle” means not just cow, but calf, ox, bull, buffalo and camel. The new rules say that cattle cannot be brought to bazaars. Slaughter animals will have to be bought from farmers directly. In any case, goonda attacks are almost sure on people who buy or sell cattle. In the recent past, farmers who keep cattle for agriculture or milk, not for slaughter, have also been attacked.
Farm Economy Ignored
In effect, there is a complete ban on sale and purchase of cattle for whatever purpose. Cattle melas that were a vibrant part of village economy may soon become memory as no farmer would like to be attacked by lawless cow vigilantes. This has also put farm economy in jeopardy as farmers have effectively been prevented from selling off their old and non-productive cattle, cows and buffaloes that no longer give milk and oxen and male buffaloes that have become too old to pull carts and carry loads.
In the new situation, farmers will have to feed unproductive cattle for years. This additional cost is certainly going to break the back of dairy farmers within a year or two. Large-scale farmer bankruptcy is going to dramatically increase the incidence of farmer suicides. So far, 45% of the dairy farmers’ income came from the sale of unproductive cattle.
Another clear anti-Muslim angle to it is evident in the fact that 80% of the people in meat trade are Muslims. This is going to be particularly tough on the members of the Qureshi biradri who are traditionally engaged in meat trade. Many among this relatively prosperous biradari are on the verge of bankruptcy.
The ban is going to affect much larger groups of people than only buyers and sellers of cattle, or those who eat the meat, because only 30% of the slaughtered cattle is meat. The rest of it is consumed by 160 different industries like medicine, cosmetics, sports goods, button, soap, paint brush etc. This will lead to widespread problems across industries, including job losses. The entire losses from it would be of the order of Rs. 2 lakh crore, which is a substantial part of the GDP. India had emerged as one of the largest exporters of meat. The country is going to lose its position as a front-rank meat exporter.
The ban is highly divisive and discriminatory. It has divided citizens into two groups: those who do not eat cattle meat and think themselves to be morally superior, and those who are regarded as morally inferior because they eat such meat. People in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka (where such meat is eaten by all groups) and in West Bengal (where it has been a non-issue) as well as in north-eastern states (where this vegetarian prejudice is totally absent) have protested. Among those opposing the ban are BJP leaders from these regions. Culturally different regions have interpreted it as assertion of cow-belt hegemony over the rest of India. Even in the cow belt, Dalits, Christians and Muslims have not relished the imposition of what JNU activists call food fascism.
Like most of BJP’s policies and decisions, this ban has turned out to be decisive. It must be rolled back in the best interest of the country.