The government on Sunday said it is open to suggestions regarding the notification banning the sale of cattle for slaughter at animal markets, reported PTI. Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan said that the intention behind the notification was not to harm any particular group, restrict the food habits of people or affect business.
In response to a question, Harsh Vardhan further stated that the notification was not a “prestige issue” for the government, and that suggestions submitted to the government so far would be reviewed.
A major row erupted after the government’s order was issued on May 23, with protests being held in some parts of the country, and Opposition politicians crying foul. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had described the ban as “undemocratic and unconstitutional” and said that her government would not abide by it. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had called for a nation-wide agitation against the notification. “Lakhs of people will lose their jobs due to the ban,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “There should be a nation-wide protest against the decision.” He also called it “against the secular character of the nation”.
Opposition party Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in Tamil Nadu attacked the Edappadi Palanisamy government for “keeping mum” on the issue. The Congress government in Karnataka had also protested the notification.
Even Bharatiya Janata Party leaders from the North East have expressed concern over the notification. On Thursday, Bernard Marak, West Garo Hills district president of the BJP in Meghalaya, quit the party saying, “The BJP is trying to impose its ideology on us.” He had earlier promised to lower the price of beef in Meghalaya if the BJP came to power in the 2018 Assembly elections.
Protests have been held in some parts of the country, including Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Last Saturday, Youth Congress workers in Kerala’s Kannur held a beef festival, and slaughtered a calf in public. The men were arrested after a complaint was filed by the BJP’s Yuva Morcha.
A beef-eating contest was held at IIT Madras, during which a student was attacked. R Sooraj, an aerospace engineering PhD student, was surrounded and thrashed by a group of students during lunch time at a hostel canteen, reported Hindustan Times. The attackers are believed to be from the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, and had allegedly issued death threats to all beef-eaters on campus, the Indian Express reported.
The new rules formulated under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act disallow the sale of cattle – cows, buffaloes, bullocks, calves and camels – for slaughter in animal markets. The government had defended the notification, with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley stating that it had nothing to do with state laws on cow slaughter, but only affected the place of sale.