Economics · Governance · Law · Politics · Public Policy

Ban on Beef: A Communal Agenda

Ban, it seems, has become the most powerful weapon in the hands of the Indian Government today or maybe the only weapon they are ready to use because it’s easier than finding a more viable and long term solution. The government has taken away the liberty of the individual and is now deciding what we can buy, what we can watch and even what we can eat. The absurdity of this situation is laughable. The government which is supposed to be unbiased and propagate our freedom of expression is the one who is infringing our Fundamental rights.

“Secularism in the political- as opposed to the ecclesiastical – sense requires the separation of the state from any particular religious order.”[1]

India is a secular state, this does not mean that it does not believe in any religion but that the constitution allows every person to choose and propagate their own religion and beliefs. The secular nature of our country validates equal respect to each and every religion but it does not mean that one religion will be given privileges just because they are the majority. In the light of this secular nature of the country, the ban on beef seems misguided and more of a communal agenda by the politicians for securing votes in the future.

BJP said the decision to enforce Maharashtra Animal Prevention (Amendment) Bill, 1995 banning slaughter of cow and cattle (bullocks) was not part of a communal agenda, but was in larger interest of farmers in Maharashtra. The state government’s decision has evoked strong reactions across political parties and social organizations alleging the BJP’s hidden agenda.[2]

The Maharashtra government it seems is within its rights while invoking a ban on slaughter of cattle also, governments over the last 6 decades have at one time or the other taken this stand. Animal husbandry and livestock is under the State list and therefore a state government has within its purview the power to make such laws.  Moreover Art 48 of the Constitution of India, which states that, “The State shall endeavour 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.”[3], directs and allows the State Government to make such laws.

Other State Governments are following the footsteps of Maharashtra Government, for instance, the Haryana legislative assembly passed the Gauvansh Sanrakshan and Gausamvardhan Bill, 2015 on 16 March 2015. The bill bans cow slaughter and sale of beef, and prescribes rigorous punishment for its violation.[4]

The prohibition on cattle slaughter as per Art 48 is to prevent unnecessary deaths and killings and therefore is valid but the trade in beef is also a source of living for an individual and putting a blanket ban on cow slaughter takes away the freedom to choose their own profession and trade[5]. Thus there is another side to the story i.e. the economic side. Beef is a major component of international food market. The beef ban would result in lowering of India’s GDP. It would also cause loss to the farmers and beef traders.

Why the ban now? No logical reason has been given, we have a good quantity and quality of cattle in India so there is no real dearth in cattle which could make the ban necessary or even the next reasonable step. With the coming of Bhartiya Janta Party in power which has been described as, “the principal political party representing the ideology of Hindu nationalism in the electoral arena”; India has seen something that it hasn’t seen before – 6 bans in a week[6].  After that, the obvious reaction of any individual would be and has been to question the credibility of such bans and the government’s reasons behind it.  Ban on anything which is without a reasonable cause, especially a ban which seems advantageous only for a section of the society seems to be tyranny of the majority. The Bombay High Court is to decide the arbitrariness of such a ban after a petition was filed before it on the illegality of the Act.[7] The ban does not seem legit also because it bans only cow slaughter and fails to deliberate upon what would be the faith of other animals.  Moreover the question is what happened to democracy and liberty. Shouldn’t an individual be allowed to decide what he/she wants to eat? Although if the government believes that the public is incompetent to make a decision for itself even on such a basic issue, which is proven by the 6 bans installed a few weeks back; then shouldn’t it be putting a ban on anything that is even a little bit harmful such as cigarette or alcohol, which is just not allowed in public areas.

If the government starts putting unreasonable bans and also so many of them, then wouldn’t it result in anarchy? If bans are there, it doesn’t mean it would be followed. The absurdity of the implementation of the ban is such that photo ID cards are to be made for the Indian cattle.[8] “India’s daughter” was banned on some technical reason and it was still viewed by a large amount of people.[9] Although Gujarat is a dry state and but still people do consume alcohol, so why take away the right to choose from the people, why take away their liberty when ban or not they are going to do what they want.

[1] Amartya Sen, The Argumentative Indian, 295 (Penguin 2005)

[2] http://indianexpress.com/article/india/maharashtra/sudhir-mungantiwar-what-is-communal-about-ban-on-cow-bullock-slaughter/ (Last accessed on 1 April 1, 2015; 11am)

[3] Constitution of India, 1950

[4] http://www.latestgktoday.com/haryana-to-impose-10-year-jail-term-for-cow-slaughter-gauvansh-sanrakshan-and-gausamvardhan-bill-2015-passed/ (Last accessed on 1 April 1, 2015; 11:25am)

[5] http://www.rediff.com/news/column/beef-ban-and-the-challenges-before-maharashtra-govt/20150329.htm (Last accessed on 1 April 1, 2015; 7:10 pm)

Beef traders also warn that while they will lose their jobs, the price of others meats in the state will also increase. Beef costs a third of mutton. Buffalo meat is largely exported and only 25 per cent of beef eaters consume it.

[6] http://www.newindianexpress.com/photos/nation/6-Bans-Imposed-by-India-Last-Week/2015/03/10/article2707096.ece (Last accessed on 1 April 1, 2015; 6:46pm)

[7] http://www.dnaindia.com/mumbai/report-bombay-high-court-to-decide-on-petition-challenging-beef-ban-on-april-6-2073624 (Last accessed on 1 April 1, 2015; 7:15pm)

[8] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/6970305.stm (Last Accessed on 1April 1, 2015; 7:20 pm)

[9] http://www.ndtv.com/agra-news/in-uttar-pradesh-villagers-watch-banned-film-indias-daughter-745309 (Last Accessed on 1April 1, 2015; 7:19 pm)

About the Author

Arundhati SinghArundhati Singh is currently pursuing her B.A LL.B. (Hons.) from Army Institute of Law, Mohali. She is an avid reader. Her areas of interests are Environmental Law, International Law and  Family Law. She is currently interning with the Model Governance Foundation.

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