Authorities must not encourage food bigotry or harass legitimate businesses

Last week Gujarat adopted a draconian law against cow slaughter, making it punishable with a 14-year jail term. This is on the heels of a clampdown on abattoirs in UP. Over in the Jharkhand capital, licenses of mutton and chicken shops haven’t been renewed. Voices are growing from Hindutva organisations in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh and other BJP-ruled states for a blanket closure of meat shops. Taken together there are worrying signs of a rise in food bigotry, cow vigilantism, harassment of legitimate meat businesses and competitive fundamentalism.

It’s important to note that cow slaughter was banned in all these states even before the current NDA government took office. Gujarat for example had imposed a complete ban not just on slaughtering but also on transporting cow and progeny in 2011. Today if it were simply a matter of improving the implementation of all laws, incidentally including such bans, it wouldn’t necessarily be such an adverse development. A clampdown on illegal slaughterhouses would be welcome if it meant a more modern, compassionate and hygienic meat industry.

Unfortunately this is not the message that goes out when Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani says he wants to make Gujarat vegetarian, his government decrees veritable life sentences and Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh talks of hanging those who kill cows. Or when legitimate UP enterprises that account for over half of India’s $5 billion worth of buffalo meat exports are threatened. It’s not just precious foreign exchange but lakhs of jobs that are at stake in an economy characterised by jobless growth. Even if one wants to institute bans on cow slaughter, this cannot be equated to the taking of a human life. Such conflations amount to religious fundamentalism which will breed conflict and violence – Pakistan next door is a good example of how it plays out. The vigilantism and violence seen from Dadri to Una could now get worse, endangering social stability and harmony.

Some months ago Prime Minister Narendra Modi had come down heavily on such vigilantes, calling out the majority of ‘gau rakshaks’ as anti-socials who proclaim themselves cow protectors only to cover up their misdeeds. Yet, in conflicting signals, legitimate meat businesses are suffering and non-vegetarianism is facing an aggressive Hindutva attack. Both Centre and BJP-ruled states need to send a more coherent message, about respecting individual liberties and protecting legal businesses.


Kerala bypoll: BJP candidate promises abattoirs and halal beef

“The ban in UP is against selling the meat of deceased and sick animals,” he said. “The ban in UP is against selling the meat of deceased and sick animals,” he said.

While BJP-ruled states are acting tough on cow slaughter, a party candidate in a Kerala by-election has promised supply of quality halal beef if he is elected. In the battle for Muslim votes in the Malappuram Lok Sabha constituency, BJP candidate N Sreeprakash said that if he wins he would take steps to erect neat, air-conditioned slaughter houses to supply quality beef in the constituency.

During a media interaction in Malappuram on Sunday, Sreeprakash justified the UP government’s crackdown on illegal slaughterhouses in that state.

“The ban in UP is against selling the meat of deceased and sick animals. Will Muslims eat meat which is non-halal? I assure you that I would ensure supply of halal meat in Malappuram if you elect me in the byelection. I will make the effort to establish good slaughterhouses, no doubt about that. You should not hesitate to vote for me on the ground that the BJP is supporting beef ban,’’ he said.

Dominated by Muslims, Malappuram district is one of the regions in Kerala where beef products are consumed in large quantities. The Congress and CPM had been raising the issue of ban on cow slaughter in north Indian states in the campaign for the election slated for April 12.

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Hundreds of cases, but only one conviction since 2011 under Gujarat cow law

Photo for representational purpose Photo for representational purpose

Since October 2011, when the government of then Chief Minister Narendra Modi amended the Gujarat Animal Preservation Act, 1954, by inserting clauses banning cow slaughter and the sale and transportation of cow meat, there has been only one conviction under the Act.

On May 8, 2016, Rafik Khalifa (35), a resident of Gandevi taluka in Navsari district, was sentenced to three years’ rigorous imprisonment by a local court under various sections of the Gujarat Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act, 2011, for possessing beef. This, according to public prosecutor M N Vasava, was the first conviction under the law amended in 2011.

On Friday, the Gujarat assembly amended the law again to make it more stringent. Cow slaughter now carries an enhanced punishment ranging from a minimum 10 years in prison to a maximum for life. The punishment for illegally transporting cow, beef or beef products is seven years.

Khalifa was caught by two members of cow vigilante groups on October 8, 2014 from Gandevi taluka, while he was allegedly on his way to sell the beef to customers in villages. Hundreds of cases have been registered across Gujarat for alleged violations; there has also been widespread abuse of the law. The most egregious case was in Mota Samdhiyala village of Una taluka in Gir-Somnath district on July 11, 2016 — four Dalit youths were flogged by “gau rakshaks” on suspicion of cow slaughter; investigation revealed later that the cow had been killed by a lioness, and the local police had fudged the record to book the Dalits for cow slaughter.

In September last year, cow vigilantes chased a car allegedly carrying two calves in Ahmedabad and thrashed the driver, Mohammed Ayub, who died of his injuries in hospital. The police filed a chargesheet against seven persons, all of whom allegedly worked to “protect” cows from slaughter.

On March 27, 2017, the Gau Rakshak Dal of Surat’s Gabhru Bharwad lodged a complaint against drivers of two tempos they had intercepted on Palsana Bardoli road near Dhamrod village. The drivers had fled, leaving behind five cows in each vehicle.

In Panchmahal district, 87 cases of alleged transport of cattle to slaughter houses were registered last year. In one case, the Godhra Taluka police arrested three persons for allegedly transporting 14 bullocks near Vavdi toll plaza in Godhra town.

The same year, 30 cases were registered in Anand district — in most cases, for transporting cattle and cow meat. In eleven cases, a total 2,930 kg meat, mostly of cows, were seized.

A superintendent of police said on condition of anonymity, “The amended law is good, as it will work as a deterrent. We have seen this recently in the case of the liquor law — after it was made a non-bailable offence, many habitual bootleggers who used to get bail easily are behind bars. There will be a similar impact in cases of cow slaughter. Trading in cow meat is anyway not lucrative, so offenders will think twice before indulging in such acts.”

In at least a dozen orders pronounced between 2012 and 2017, the Gujarat High Court found that the police had registered cases for either carrying buffaloes for slaughter or buffalo meat. The accused had moved the court for the release of vehicles impounded under the 2011 Act, that provides for their seizure for six months. The court ordered police to release such vehicles since they were carrying animals or meat other than that of cow.

“There is a lot of harassment by the authorities. I have at least three dozen cases, 60% of which deal with buffaloes. However, the police treat all cases under the same Act,” advocate Soeb Bhoheria said. “The lower courts hardly consider the difference, and we have to move the High Court every time for the release of vehicles that were impounded wrongly.”

Some other cases in which action was taken under the Act:

On July 6, 2016, Nazir Shaikh and Faruk Surti of Anaval village in Mahuva taluka of Surat district, and Hussain Shaikh and Naeem Shaikh of Surat city, were arrested by Mahuva police for alleged involvement in slaughtering a cow on the banks of the Kaveri river in Anaval village. Sarpanch Thakor Patel had lodged a complaint against the accused.

On July 27, 2016, Girish Sosa of Navsari town was caught by two members of cow vigilante groups, allegedly in possession of 20 kg of beef. Members of the vigilante group registered a police complaint against the accused.

On August 19, 2016, tempo driver Mohsin Mansuri of Surat city was arrested for carrying 12 buffaloes, allegedly for slaughter. Cow vigilantes intercepted the tempo at Neol checkpost on Surat Kadodara highway.

May 21, 2015, Ahmed Makda and his aide Taufik Makda were caught by vigilantes near Kaliyari village for carrying cattle allegedly meant for slaughter.

May 29, 2015, tempo driver Shamsher Pathan, a resident of Limbayat, was found dead on the bank of the Tapi river. The cleaner, Farid Shaikh, alleged he was caught by cow vigilantes who had beaten and thrown him off Savji Korat bridge in Navsari. Police registered cases against the cleaner and the deceased for carrying beef, and also a complaint against members of a cow vigilante group for beating the driver and the cleaner.

In September last year, Bhalej Police in Anand arrested Ilias Vora and Gulam Qureshi from Vidhyanagar town for allegedly transporting cow meat. Police seized 800 kg of cow meat and a mini truck. They were released on bail.

On February 4 last year, Vadu Police in Vadodara arrested Samadhan Dangar, Kishor Dangar, Dinesh, and Vijay Luhar for allegedly transporting 9 bullocks. They were released on bail.

(Inputs from Ritesh Gohil in Vadodara and Gopal Kateshiya in Rajkot)

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Will hang cow killers: Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh

A DAY after the Gujarat Assembly amended the law to make cow slaughter punishable by a minimum of 10 years in jail and a maximum of life imprisonment, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh waded into the controversy on Saturday with his remark that anyone found committing “gau hatya” — cow slaughter — would be hanged (“latka denge.”)

Chhattisgarh banned cow slaughter – and transport and sale of beef – through the Chhattisgarh Agricultural Cattle Preservation Act, 2004. Punishment for those falling foul of the law is up to three years in jail, and a fine of up to Rs 10,000.

A senior official from the Chief Minister’s Office, however, sought to play down Singh’s statement and said it had been “lost in translation.”

Earlier in the day, asked by a reporter whether Chhattisgarh is contemplating a new law on cow slaughter, Singh said, “Chhattisgarh mein kahan gau maut ho rahe hai? Ho raha hai kya? Aaj tak…pichhle pandrah saal mein…kisi gau ko maara hai kya? Jo maarega usko latka denge (Where is cow slaughter taking place in Chhattisgarh? Has any cow been slaughtered in the last 15 years? If anyone does so, we will hang the person).”

The CMO official said, “The controversy has emerged from the translation of ‘latka denge’. That term is often used signifying that action will be taken. All he meant was that if any contravention of the law is found, action as per law will be taken.”

The state’s 2004 law bans slaughter of “agricultural cattle”, possession of beef, and transport of agricultural cattle for the purpose of slaughtering. Section 11 of the Act puts the burden of proof during the trial on the accused. Agricultural cattle is defined under the Act as “cows of all ages, calves of cows and bulls, bullocks, male and female buffaloes”.

In the Assembly session that lasted for nearly a month, and was suspended for all practical purposes other than discussion on GST, which is scheduled to be held in April, the government did not propose any changes to the cow slaughter law. The opposition has locked horns with the government on its decision to form a corporation from April 1 to sell alcohol.

On Saturday, while the Chief Minister was in Bastar to inaugurate the implementation phase of Bastar Net, an ambitious plan to connect seven districts of the Maoist-affected area with fibre optic cables, the main opposition parties held protests demanding complete prohibition in the state.

Singh also flagged off a night train between Jagdalpur and Visakhapatnam.

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Meat and milk are two sides of the same coin: Rajeev Gupta, a dairy farmer in Agra

(Clockwise from left) Abhi Gupta hoses down the buffaloes; his father, Rajeev Gupta, during the evening milking session; Customers collect milk in the night. Photos by Ishita Mishra (Clockwise from left) Abhi Gupta hoses down the buffaloes; his father, Rajeev Gupta, during the evening milking session; Customers collect milk in the night. Photos by Ishita Mishra

Around 5.30 am, just as the sun begins to emerge from behind the clouds, Rajeev Gupta, 52, asks Govardhan, his employee, to switch the feeding positions of Madhuri and Priyanka. “Look, Madhuri is eating all of Priyanka’s fodder and then Priyanka will not produce milk. Keep them apart,” he says. “Ab bhaison ko kya pata apna khana kahan hai aur doosre ka kahan. Itni si jagah mein kahan le jayein in sau janwaro ko (How can buffaloes distinguish between their own food and that of another? In such a small space, where do we accommodate these 100 animals)?” Govardhan mutters to himself.

At Harvilas Dairy in Agra’s Soda Wali Gali, one of the biggest in the region in terms of production, discussions over space constraints have now been overshadowed by those on the crackdown on illegal slaughterhouses in the state. “We can’t say much about India’s beef market but we can proudly say that we are the world’s largest producer of milk. It is obvious that the two are interrelated and a ban on slaughter will impact the legal buffalo and dairy industry,” say Rajeev, who now runs the dairy, which is more than 70 years old, with his son Abhi Gupta, 25.

However, he adds, he voted for the BJP in the recently held Assembly elections and is “happy” with the Yogi Adityanath government’s crackdown on illegal slaughter houses. “Business will be hit a little, but as a Hindu, I am happy that he has stopped the illegal slaughtering of animals,” he says.

It is around 7 am now and the dairy farmer is mixing fodder for his 60 buffaloes, all Murrah, and 33 cows, all Jersey, which are housed in a 1,500 sq ft cattle shed. The feeding process, Rajeev says, is initiated at 5.30 am, and his day involves bathing his milch herd, ensuring that the sick animals receive treatment and most importantly, that they are milked on time.

“These animals eat for almost two hours, between 6 and 8 am. Then we milk them; it takes around four hours to milk all 93 cattle heads I have. Some produce 12-13 litres while there are some which give 25 litres of milk. This depends on the animal’s mood and health. The cows produce more milk than the buffaloes but the demand for buffalo milk is higher as it is thicker,” explains Rajeev while milking Julie, which was brought to him almost a year ago. While most of his animals are named after Bollywood stars — he considers them “his heroines” — Rajeev’s top producing milch animal is Mayawati.

Once the animals are milked in the morning, they rest between 1 pm and 4 pm. Rajeev also uses this time to relax. “The cycle is repeated again from 4 pm — fodder for two hours and milking for the next four. The buffaloes and cows are spared the bathing in the evening as they hate water,” he says, adding that he sleeps only at 12 am after ensuring all his animals have eaten properly and are comfortable in the shed.

While he refuses to reveal how much he earns, being among his buffaloes and cows has been worth his while, Rajeev says. The trade has allowed him to buy a house, a car, and provide for the education of his two children. He says he spends almost Rs 250 a day on each animal, with his monthly expenditure for all 93 animals totalling almost Rs 7 to 8 lakh. To make dairy farming financially viable, he buys and sells animals at regular intervals, from 9 months to 1.5 years.

“For better production, cows should be made to produce calves at least once a year and buffaloes once in 15 months. The calves are separated from their mothers for three to four days after birth. This is traumatic for both but it leads to a 15-30 per cent increase in milk availability for humans. Following separation, the calves are mainly fed on milk substitutes and are allowed only limited suckling. The mother’s milk is instead diverted for human consumption,” says Abhi, hosing down the cattle with one hand and messaging on his iPhone with the other.

The latest entrant to the family enterprise, Abhi, who has a BCom degree from Agra University, says he joined the business at the age of 15.

To keep dairy animals productive, animal husbandry manuals recommend re-impregnation around 60 days after calving — a longer calving interval is uneconomical and a shorter one reduces milk production.

Once the calves are born, Rajeev says, the norm in the industry is to either release the male animals onto the streets or send them for slaughter, but adds that he doesn’t do this. “Hum nahin chhodte apne jaanwar balki bech dete hain kisanon ko (We don’t leave our animals on the streets. Instead, we sell them to farmers),” he says. “The healthy females are kept for use in the dairy. It is only when milk production starts to decline after three to four lactations (pregnancies) that the cows and buffaloes are sold for slaughter through middlemen, or to smaller farmers who will use them for an additional two to three lactations before selling them for slaughter or abandoning them,” he adds.

It is some of these practices that have led to veterinarians and animal rights activists to term dairy production as being as traumatic and lethal to animals as slaughter. “Farmers who buy the male animals from the dairy owners subject them to castration without anaesthesia, before whipping and forcing them into hard labour until they are old and weak. The healthy females are kept alive for use in the dairy industry, which means a repeated cycle of impregnation, separation, painful milking, oxytocin shots and mastitis (inflammation of the udder),” says Yogesh Sharma, Veterinary Officer at the Agra Municipal Corporation (AMC).

Rajeev claims none of his buffaloes has ever died as he keeps replacing them, but admits that almost 2,000 cows have died in his shed in the 30 years of his career. “While buffaloes can be beneficial even in death as their meat can get an owner around Rs 25,000, the cow is useless and we need to pay Rs 500 to a ‘kasai (skinners)’ to remove the carcass,” he adds.

“If dairy producers are not allowed to slaughter male calves and spent, sick or injured cows, it has considerable implications for animal welfare as well as meat and leather production,” says M K Jain, a customer of Rajeev Gupta who visits the dairy at 7 pm every day.

The fallout of this, as a 2012 census by the Animal Husbandry Department revealed, is that there are 5.3 million stray cattle abandoned by their owners across the country, almost one million of which are in urban areas. “Stray animals spread vector-borne diseases, cause occupational health hazards and environmental pollution. These hazards must also be considered,” says Meenakshi Singh, another customer at the dairy.

Ramesh Chandra, 73, Rajeev’s father, blames the Agra Development Authority (ADA) for another major problem afflicting his dairy — the lack of space. “In 1998, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had directed the ADA to shift all industries, be it petha (a sweet), leather or dairy, outside the city to ensure less pollution. I also want to modernise my farm for which I need a bigger space outside the city. The animals are forced to huddle close together against their nature, and if we let them loose, they will bathe in the Yamuna and make it dirty. If we take them out for walks, they cause traffic snarls. So we avoid that,” says Ramesh Chandra, adding that he has written many letters to the ADA but “the authorities are not paying any heed.”

With his customers having all left by 9 pm, Rajeev audits his account books. “Animals are animals anyway. Life can be nasty, brutish and short for male cattle and a little comfortable for the female ones. The fate of every cattle head is slaughter, whether you accept it or not. Actually, meat and milk are just two sides of the same coin,” he says, before heading home, within the premises of the cattle pen, at around 11 pm.

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BJP to raise issue of illegal slaughter houses in Gujarat

A CAG report tabled in the Assembly on March 31 noted that slaughter houses in Gujarat are running their business without obtaining license under Food Safety and Standards Act. (Representational Image) A CAG report tabled in the Assembly on March 31 noted that slaughter houses in Gujarat are running their business without obtaining license under Food Safety and Standards Act. (Representational Image)

The ruling BJP in Gujarat today said it will raise the issue of illegal slaughter houses running in the state.

To a question on the party’s stand regarding illegal slaughter houses running in Gujarat, state BJP spokesperson Bharat Pandya said the government is committed to save cows.

A CAG report tabled in the Assembly on March 31 noted that slaughter houses in Gujarat are running their business without obtaining license under Food Safety and Standards Act.

The observation by CAG came on a day when the state government passed a Bill proposing life term for those found to be involved in cow slaughter and 10-year jail for those involved in sale or transportation of beef.

“BJP will definitely draw the attention of the state government on this issue. If something is illegal then it has to be dealt with. No one can be allowed to play with people’s health. BJP will surely make a sincere representation to the government on this issue,” Pandya told reporters here today.

The BJP leader also denied Congress’ allegation that cattle rearers were forced to send their cows to slaughter houses due to unavailability of gauchar (grazing land).

The opposition party had alleged that gauchar was sold to industrialists by the BJP government.

“Gauchar land was sold when Congress was in power (before 1995), not under the BJP rule. Our government is committed to save cows by introducing various schemes,” Pandya said.

He said the BJP would organise celebrations across Gujarat for three days from tomorrow to thank the state government for introducing a stringent Bill to save cows.

“For the next three days, party workers across the state would organise programmes of gau puja (cow worship) and offering of grass to cows in all talukas,” he said.

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Vote for me, I will ensure good beef: BJP candidate in Kerala by-election

Sreeprakash, the BJP candidate in Malappuram Sreeprakash, the BJP candidate in Malappuram

Even as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) amended a bill reflecting stricter punishment for those found guilty of cow slaughter in Gujarat and initiated a crackdown on illegal slaughter houses in Uttar Pradesh, its candidate in a by-election in Kerala is traversing a different path. N Sreeprakash, the party candidate in the upcoming Lok Sabha by-election in Malappuram, is promising voters that if elected, he will ensure the supply of good beef in the constituency.

“There will be efforts from my side to ensure good-quality beef at clean abattoirs (if elected),” Sreeprakash told reporters at a ‘Meet the Press’ function. He blamed the Congress for enforcing ban on cow slaughter when it was in power in many states in the past. He said it was only illegal to consume beef in states where a ban on cow slaughter is in place.

Kerala is among the few states in the country where there are no restrictions on the sale and consumption of cow meat.

The states in red have cow slaughter bans in place The states in red have cow slaughter bans in place

Sreeprakash’s frank admission comes a day after Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh, a BJP leader, said that anyone found committing gau hatya (cow slaughter) will be hanged. The state banned cow slaughter in 2004.

While the BJP has pursued tough legislation and action on those committing cow slaughter in the northern and western states, it has been criticised of hypocrisy in states like Kerala and the northeast where consumption of beef is not illegal. “BJP’s hypocrisy is that in Uttar Pradesh Cow is mummy but in the Northeast its yummy,” AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi was quoted saying by news agency ANI.

There is no ban on cow slaughter in Arunachal Pradesh (BJP-ruled), Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland (BJP ally-ruled), Tripura and Sikkim. In Manipur, where the BJP came to power earlier this month, the Maharaja in 1939 had decreed prosecution for cow slaughter but beef is consumed widely.

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Gujarat: BJP organises ‘gau pujans’ to celebrate passage of Bill against cow slaughter

Gau pujan” being organised at Shree Kalyanraiji temple in Vadodara on Saturday, a day after the Assembly cleared a Bill providing for life imprisonment for cow slaughter. Members of BJP’s women wing joined the ritual. Bhupendra Rana Gau pujan” being organised at Shree Kalyanraiji temple in Vadodara on Saturday, a day after the Assembly cleared a Bill providing for life imprisonment for cow slaughter. Members of BJP’s women wing joined the ritual. Bhupendra Rana

The Maldhari community members belonging to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) gathered at various places in Gujarat to celebrate the passage of a Bill providing for harsher punishment for violation of cow slaughter ban in the state. In Gandhinagar, there were gau pujan rituals, led by BJP leaders. “They fed them sukhdi, gur and lapsi. They also burst crackers at many places,” said state BJP spokesperson Bharat Pandya.

State BJP president Jitu Vaghani, organising general secretary Bhikhubhai Dalsaniya, Gandhinagar MLA Ashok Patel and office-bearers of the city and district party organisation, besides religious leaders were present at the time of cow worship. They also commended the state government for its decisive action against the violation of cow slaughter ban, Pandya said.

More such programmes would be held in the state over the next two days, Pandya said. In Ahmedabad, the Maldharis gathered in front of its Khanpur to express their gratitude to the government. A crowd of around 200 had gathered at the venue shouting slogans. A few municipal councillors danced wearing traditional Maldhari attire and carried a small statue of a pair of a cow and calf.

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Shiv Sena workers force shutdown KFC, meat shops in Gurugram [Video]

The new BJP lead government are on a mission to crack down illegal slaughter houses in Uttar Pradesh and is possibly inspiring other Hindutva organisations and political parties in states run by BJP government.


After UP, Jharkhand govt orders closure of illegal abattoirs within 72 hours

Ranchi: Following Uttar Pradesh government’s action against illegal slaughterhouses, Jharkhand government on Monday asked closure of illegal abattoirs within 72 hours.

The step was taken keeping in view the overall public order, safety and health of the general public, an official release said here.

Principal Secretary (Home) S K G Rahate wrote to all deputy commissioners, senior superintendents of police, superintendents of police, municipalities and notified area committees to take steps for closure of illegal abattoirs.

Stating that notice must be issued to all illegal slaughter houses for closing operations within 72 hours, the letter asked the officials not to allow any illegal abattoirs to operate within their jurisdictions.

Rahate also said that valid slaughter houses must ensure compliance of the rules and regulations laid down by the Animal Husbandry Department and Health Department.