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The age-old tussle over cow slaughter in public — although never a serious political issue in Bengal largely because of the three-decade-long Left rule and the TMC’s dependence on minority votes — is fast becoming a rallying point now.
The state unit of the BJP – which is sharpening its focus on Bengal ahead of the 2016 assembly polls — is stepping up its rapid action force to rescue cows. The BJP is armed with a Calcutta high court ruling of 2011 that cows older than 14 years can be slaughtered only inside slaughterhouses.
“We have already written a letter to PM Narendra Modi, seeking the government’s intervention and awaiting his reply. But we’ll continue with our programmes in the meantime to spread awareness against cow slaughter,” said Subrata Gupta, chief of the BJP’s cow development cell in Bengal.
Gupta is hopeful as Modi is a passionate campaigner against cow slaughter and got it banned in Gujarat in 2005. He said, “Our rapid action force recovered about 8,000 cows from being slaughtered in 2013 alone.”
His statement may sound mild, but given the heavy concentration of Muslims in the state — about 28% of the population — and its common border with Bangladesh, a major consumer of smuggled cattle, it may spell trouble for the state government ahead of the 2016 polls.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who earlier opposed any ban on cow slaughter, may find it difficult to support slaughter in public and cattle smuggling.
Already, at villages such as Patharpara and Chitpurhat in Basirhat of the border district of North 24-Parganas, smuggling of cows to Bangladesh ahead of Eidul-Joha every year is a major issue.
On July 22, the BJP is organising a public meeting at Uluberia in Howrah — not a border district but with a considerable Muslim population — to protest against cow slaughter in public.