A Conundrum and its Implications
- Ladies and Gentlemen, as we are aware that an article and any information possesses a sublime essence and a humdrum component. In the last couple of days since assumption of Yogi Adityanath government in UP followed by the dictum to shut down illegal slaughter houses, we are passing through vicissitudes, every act and episode blown up into an exciting chronicle of unsavoury events, injecting more passion than reason, more stupidity than splendid and more heat than light. I thus without wasting any time decided to unfold and decipher as to what it means and what are its implications.
- Prior embarking into the journey, I would like to humbly submit that there has been an avoidable communal uproar witnessed over the slaughter ban in the social media which is to the least said disparaging and unacceptable. Next, the posts in the social media also go on to irritatingly suggest what is mentioned in the Vedas and scriptures that too contradicting in different social groups as if every group has separate copyright for obtaining tailor made Vedas. Ladies and Gentlemen, its time to evolve, we as people and citizens are guided by the Constitution of India and the Constituent Assembly is ought to have sedulously gleaned the societal issues and framed the document which is venerated in line and spirit while enacting Statutes by the Centre and the States.
- The Factual Situation. Yogi Adityanath government, as promised in its election manifesto to shut down illegal slaughter houses if elected into power, fulfilled the promise and started shutting down the illegal slaughter houses. The purpose was to shut down the illegal abattoirs in the state and some of them being in front of schools and hospitals. The situation worsened when the statements were made about beef ban which however is untrue for the reasons explained later. The print and the electronic media have for understandable reasons succeeded to politicise the matter. However the events of Hooliganism in the name of “Gau Rakshaks” resulting in lynching of a 55 year old man and causing injury to five others in Alwar, Rajasthan are preposterous, despicable and outrageous. The cattle was for the farming purpose and the man had the documents in his possession. Thereafter flogging dalits in Una and hanging of two people in UP and another lynching incident in Dadri is by any means unacceptable. If the cow vigilantes continue to terrorise and kill people without any fear of law, no one would want to keep a cow.
- The situation as its stands in the country today is that the cow slaughter is legally allowed in the northeast states and a few other states such as Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. While the slaughter of bulls and bullocks is allowed in certain states such as Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Bihar, Karnataka, Odisha, Puducherry and Telangana, there is a complete ban on bovine slaughter in many states such as Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Rajasthan etc.
- I would like to herein quote the 19th century Bengali writer, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee once wrote about the fellow Indians about the culinary preferences, “of that weakest of human beings, the half educated anglicised and brutalised Bengali babu, who congratulates of his capacity to dine off a plate of beef as if this act of gluttony constituted in itself impeachable evidence of a perfectly cultivated intellect”.
- I may further add that the cow slaughter in India has been pushed to the geographical fringes. What passes off as a beef in India is mostly buffalo beef against which there is no statutory prohibition. While there is a strong anecdotal evidence of more eclectic food habits, the strictures against beef be it cow or buffalo remain as strong in the social sphere. There may be an all round acceptance of vegetarian and non vegetarian but the permissiveness stops at beef. For most of the Indians, it is unacceptable at home or in public places.
- The Economic Aspects. The economic consequences of cow slaughter assume great significance. During the period 1997 to 2012, the number cows has increased from 103 to 117 million whereas the male cattle has reduced from 96 to 66 million. As the number of male cattle and the cows should be almost the same, the significant reduction in male cattle implies that a large number of male cattle had been slaughtered. A cow gives milk from the age of 3 to 10 years and the life span is 20 to 25 years. Once a cow becomes unproductive, it is sold for slaughtering. A ban on the slaughter would adversely disturb the economics i.e., cost of feeding the cow for the rest of its life thereby resulting in the cost of feed by over 100 percent and also the cost of milk. Further in 2012, there were 180 million cattle heads. It is estimated that the slaughter ban would push these numbers to nearly 400 million by 2027.
- The ban on cow slaughter will also affect meat production, meat exports and the export of leather goods. India’s beef export has been steadily rising since 2011 at a rate of 14 percent fetching 4.8 billion US dollars in 2014 thereby implying that India is earning more from beef than basmati rice.
- Now the Legal Aspects. Article 48 of the constitution lays down the Directive principles of State policy which only directs the state to prohibit cow slaughter. The directive is not a binding and neither enforceable. The Honourable Supreme Court by its seven judge constitution bench headed by the erstwhile Mr Justice RC Lahoti CJI, pronounced the judgement on 26 Oct 2005 in the case “State of Gujarat vs Mirzapur Moti Kureshi Kassab Jamat & Others” and upheld the constitutional validity of anti cow slaughter laws enacted by the state governments in the country as “stare decisis et non quieta movere” thus implying to stand by the decisions and not to disturb what is settled. The background to the matter is that it was initially referred to a three judge division bench which later referred to a five judge constitution bench. When the matter was heard by the bench, it emerged that there are orders already pronounced by the five judge constitution bench earlier by the Supreme Court and as a result, the matter was referred to the seven judge constitution bench. The judgement also brings out the factual position stipulated in Rig Vedic culture and Dharamshastra. I also may mention that extrapolation of Vedas in today’s life is unfounded. Can I have eight wives as Lord Krishna. No, so please stop this.
- Lastly, the Article 48 of the Constitution implies the ban on slaughter is a state issue, unambiguously manifested by the recent intervention of the Allahabad High Court regarding shutting down of illegal slaughter houses slaughter in UP. In the conspectus, the Centre has no role to play and the SC also has no case to intervene.
- Thanks for patient reading. Talk to you soon.
By Mukesh Batra