Opinion

Opinion: Centre has not banned cow slaughter but has introduced a new licence raj around it

The new rules make it difficult to dispose of cattle and livestock in animal markets given the likely harassment and red tape.

Contrary to certain news reports, the Union Government has not banned cow slaughter. The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017, notified by the Centre on May 23 only regulates the manner in which animal markets are supposed to function, and how the animals brought for trade are to be treated there. These Rules do not, at any point, ban cow slaughter though there are certain provisions that relate to the slaughter of cattle.

The Rules have not been introduced all of a sudden. A draft version was placed in the public domain in January, but seems to have escaped the notice of most people, especially those directly affected by it. Given that the Rules were made public only in Hindi and English, it is quite likely that the bulk of agriculturalists and pastoralists directly affected by them had no idea they were even coming.

Although the Rules themselves do not say it, the justification for them can perhaps be traced to the directions of the Supreme Court last year in the context of a public interest litigation filed to put an end to cross-border cattle smuggling from India to Nepal. The Ministry of Environment and Forests then undertook to issue new rules under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, within six months, to check such cross-border cattle smuggling. These Rules attempt to do so by directing that animal markets not be located within 50 km of any international border.

However, the Rules also provide for a wide range of dos and don’ts that have been interpreted as some sort of nationwide ban on cow slaughter. The Rules do not, in fact, say so. Even if they did, they would have to be struck down as unconstitutional by the High Courts or the Supreme Court.

What the Rules actually say

The general purpose of the Rules is to regulate animal markets – places where cattle and other livestock are offered for sale and purchase. The bulk of the Rules are devoted to detailing the minutiae of how the cattle are to be treated, who is responsible for the proper management of animal markets and so on. Most of these are unobjectionable, and while some of them are bureaucratic and tedious, it is nothing out of the ordinary for the government. The controversial part of the Rules seems to be Rule 22, which seems to suggest that animals sold in the markets cannot be slaughtered.

While this Rule has been interpreted to be a ban on the sale of cattle for slaughter, it is actually a direction to the member secretary of the Animal Market Committee to ensure that Rules relating to the sale and purchase of animals are complied with. This includes such mundane things as “keep a record of name and address of the purchaser and procure his identity proof” all the way to something more wide-ranging such as ensuring that the purchaser of the cattle does not sell the animal for the purpose of slaughter. The member secretary of the Animal Market Committee is, under the Rules, the chief municipal officer or chief officer of the local civic authority. This officer has no police powers under these Rules or any other law to forbid anyone to slaughter cattle if the law in that state otherwise permits it or regulates it. At best, this provision is homily, and at worst, a case of thoughtless drafting on the part of the government.

The only penal provision that might apply for violation of the Rules is Section 38(3) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, which prescribes a penalty of three months imprisonment and a fine of Rs 100 “if any person contravenes, or abets the contravention of, any rules made under this section…” Even then, it is not entirely clear if the person who slaughtered the cow would be penalised under this provision, or the member secretary for failing to prevent him from doing so. However, there are good constitutional reasons for avoiding such a loose and over-broad interpretation of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

(Photo credit: Reuters/Shailesh Andrade).
(Photo credit: Reuters/Shailesh Andrade).

Constitutional bar

Although Article 48 of the Constitution of India does exhort the State to prohibit the slaughter of cows, calves and other milch and draught cattle, it is placed in the Directive Principles of State Policy and hence non-enforceable in court. At the same time, the Constitution has demarcated the powers between the state and Centre with respect to cattle. The power to make laws on “preservation, protection and improvement of stock” is within the exclusive domain of the state legislature. It is under this entry (Entry 15 of List II of the Seventh Schedule) that the various cattle slaughter, regulation and prohibition laws (wherever enacted) have been made by various states.

On the other hand, the Constitution clearly grants the power to make laws relating to prevention of cruelty to animals to both the central and the state governments. Where there is a conflict between a central and a state law relating to animal cruelty, the central law will prevail – as the Supreme Court recently reiterated in the jallikattu case. The central law on the subject being the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, any state law relating to animal cruelty, which conflicts with this will be overridden. However, a state law relating to animal husbandry in general, or cow slaughter in specific, would not be affected by this law and operate as is. Even if there is no state law expressly governing cow slaughter, the Centre cannot, through the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act or Rules, try to make a law banning or regulating cow slaughter.

No doubt there are valid concerns on the operation of this law and its potential to make the lives of farmers and pastoralists more difficult. It could very well make it more difficult to dispose of cattle and livestock in animal markets given the harassment and red tape that farmers may have to go through. That may only mean that private sales, where not prohibited under the law, will continue as is and slaughter, where regulated and permitted under the state law, will go on, as is.

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.