Finding it increasingly difficult to carry on with their trade in the middle of a crackdown on illegal slaughterhouses and abattoirs in Uttar Pradesh, the Qureshi community has decided to protect cows themselves. The Qureshis, a small Muslim subgroup traditionally engaged in the meat trade, have also said that they will boycott anyone from the community found to be engaged in cow slaughter, and threatened to call an all-India strike on May 10 if the crisis was not resolved till then.

The All India Jamiatul Quresh, in a meeting held in Lucknow on Thursday, passed a resolution committing itself to “gau raksha”. “Our community is always seen with suspicion, as if we are engaged in cow slaughter all the time. It is not so. We want to remove this misconception and have decided to take the initiative of protecting cows,” Siraj Qureshi, national president of the All India Jamiatul Quresh, said. He added that the initiative would be implemented across the country soon.

At the same meeting, the organisation passed a resolution to impose “hukka paani band” (social boycott) on those who defy the order. The policy will be an image-building exercise for the community, said Shakeel Qureshi, general secretary of the state unit of the All India Jamiatul Quresh and the man behind the resolution.

The community also discussed the non-availability of meat due to closure of illegal slaughterhouses and decided to hold a protest on April 20 if Chief Minister Adityanath’s promise of renewing meat sellers’ licences was not fulfilled. “We are confident that there will be some result. We are in touch with the officials and, hopefully, the licences will be renewed,” Siraj Qureshi said.

“There is no point in sitting idle or being afraid. There has to be a way out of this impasse. We understand that butchers in various districts have been rendered jobless but they will be reabsorbed once the situation improves. Otherwise, we will have to think of something else,” he added.

Meanwhile, meat supply remained erratic in Lucknow and other districts in the state. At Aligarh Muslim University, where nearly 20,000 students live in hostels, supply had been disrupted due to lack of buffalo meat but has now resumed. Meat is now being procured from local meat processing plants at Rs 150 per kilogram in packed boxes. However, since every district does not possess a slaughter plant, availability remains a problem.

Umar Choudhary, an office bearer of the All India Jamiatul Quresh, said that some of the cleanliness guidelines were difficult to comply with. “We understand the legal formalities. We are also in favour of cleanliness. But there are some guidelines, such as how far a shop should be from a place of worship, that may pose a problem,” he said. He pointed out that many meat shops in the old city were located near mosques.

On March 27, meat sellers across Uttar Pradesh had declared an indefinite strike against the crackdown on illegal slaughterhouses. They alleged that that they were being targeted under the new dispensation. Several other states, including Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, have followed UP’s lead and started shutting down meat shops.