Beef politics

‘This is dictatorial’: In Kerala, Bengal and North East, new cattle rules meet with opposition

States with a tradition of eating beef protest notification that will make slaughtering cattle much more difficult.

Friday’s notification by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests banning the sale of cattle for slaughter at animal markets has triggered a flurry of protests in Kerala, Bengal and most North Eastern states that have traditionally eaten beef. Though the new rules do not explicitly ban beef, they have created a thicket of red tape that will, in effect, make cattle slaughter very difficult.

Scroll.in reporters spoke to people across the country who are opposing the rules.

Arunachal Pradesh: ‘Even China doesn’t do that’

In the eastern-most state of the country, Arunachal Pradesh, the primary opposition to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, the Congress, vowed to step up protests, describing the move as “dictatorial”.

“People of the state will protest with us as 99% of the people are beef-eaters here,” said Padi Richo, president of the state Congress unit. Richo said it was unbecoming of a modern democracy to dictate food choices for its people. “Even China doesn’t do that,” he said.

Bengal: ‘Destructive attitude to federal structure’

Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said on Monday that the new rules were “undemocratic and unconstitutional” and reflected “a destructive attitude to federal structure, unnecessary bulldozing, encroaching and interference to federal structure”.

She added: “We will challenge it legally and constitutionally for interference in state power.”

The rules were also criticised by Congress’s West Bengal, which alleged that they would will hurt the livelihoods of millions of people associated with the meat industry and allied sectors.

Kerala: Beef festivals and cow slaughter

In Kerala, almost all political parties, except the BJP, organised beef festivals. Protesters brought cooking utensils and firewood, built make-shift open hearths and cooked huge quantities of beef. These were eaten by bystanders, accompanied by bread, parotta and ghee rice.

The Democratic Youth Federation of India and Students’ Federation of India, the youth and student wings of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), and their Congress counterparts, Youth Congress and Kerala Students Union, took the lead in organising the festivals across the state.

The Students’ Federation of India alone organised beef festivals in 210 locations.

A beef fest in Kerala
A beef fest in Kerala

Ministers of the Left Democratic Front government, MLAs and MPs too joined the protest by relishing the beef delicacies.

The state is likely to witness more beef festivals when schools and colleges re-open next week after the summer break.

Beef festivals are not new to Kerala. Hundreds of such events had been organised in the state in 2015 to protest the lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq in Dadri in Uttar Pradesh.

In another act of protest, youth Congress workers in Kannur slaughtered a bullock on May 27 and distributed the meat. The incident hit national headlines, but the protesters ran into legal trouble after the police registered a case against the workers under Section 120-A of the Kerala Police Act based on a complaint by a BJP leader.

The section deals with causing nuisance and violation of public order.

The BJP’s state president, Kummanam Rajashekharan, tweeted out a video of the slaughter. “Cruelty at its peak,” he wrote.

The Congress national leadership intervened immediately, fearing public backlash. Rahul Gandhi condemned the incident on May 28. The party suspended three youth Congress workers who organised the protest on May 29.

Manipur: ‘Only an anti-minority government can do something like this’

In Manipur, the Congress lashed out the Union government, calling it anti-minority. “Only an anti-minority government can do something like this in the holy month of Ramzan,” said Congress legislator Md Fajur Rahim. Rahim said that the notification insulted “secularism of the country”.

The ruling BJP is treading cautiously. Nimaichand Luwang, its spokesperson, said there will “certainly be a lot of reaction among Manipuri people”. Around 40%-45% of Manipuri people eat beef, so there will definitely be protests, he said.

Meghalaya: ‘Dictatorial’

In poll-bound Meghalaya, the spokesperson of the ruling Congress was quoted by the Meghalaya Times as having called the notification “dictatorial”.

The BJP, which has emerged as a strong contender to the Congress in recent times, seemed to have taken a circumspect line. While a party leader named Bernard Marak reportedly said the BJP would reduce the price of beef if the party came to power, the party’s state president Shibun Lyngdoh told Scroll.in that it was only Marak’s “personal opinion”.

In March, however, the party had affirmed that there would be no ban on beef in the North Eastern states. When asked about the same in light of the new notification, Lyngdoh remained non-committal. “We will discuss it with our Delhi leaders and then comment,” he said.

Mizoram: ‘Veiled Hinduvta agenda’

In another poll-bound state, Mizoram, the ruling Congress said the new rule “restricted people from eating what they want to in a beef-eating society like Mizoram”. “There is a veiled Hinduvta agenda to this move, so as a Christian-majority state we are very cautious,” said David Thangliana of the Mizoram Pradesh Congress Committee.

The state’s BJP president JV Hluna said the notification would not “affect Mizoram at all”. “Nothing can happen without the state government’s approval,” he said. Hluna said the BJP in Mizoram “won’t support a ban on cow slaighter in Mizoram territory”.

Nagaland: ‘Might as well be separated from India’

In Nagaland, the ban has evoked equally sharp responses. The Naga Hoho, a powerful tribal civil society body, contended that the notification undermined “religion, way of life and food habits” of the Naga people. “Laws like these can never be implemented in Nagaland,” Naga Hoho President, Chuba Ozukum. “Without beef, it will impossible for Naga people to survive.”

Nagaland is ruled by a coalition that is headed by the National People’s Front and has BJP as an ally. Although no other party sends any representatives to the state legislature, the Congress does have a fair presence in the state’s politics. Its president K Therie asserted that such a ban was not acceptable to the people in the state. “If the BJP wants to ban beef, Nagaland might as well be separated from India,” he said. “This is very serious, we cannot obey this rule, we will have to violate it.”

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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.