Separatists in Kashmir on Thursday urged people to slaughter bovine animals instead of the traditional goats on Eid later this month, hours after the state high court ordered the government to implement the order banning sale of beef.
“Although consumption of beef is less in Kashmir, there are some areas where it’s consumed daily. So I see no reason why this practice should not continue,” said separatist leader and the Valley’s head cleric Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. “It’s nothing but a political gimmick.”
The Jammu and Kashmir high court upheld the colonial-era law banning the sale of beef and ordered state police to ensure strict compliance after a petitioner argued that the slaughter of bovine animals hurt the sentiments of some communities.
Experts say the high court order is a reiteration of a section of the 1932 Ranbir Penal Code that is applicable in J and K, which says voluntary slaughter of oxen, bulls, cows and calves is punishable with up to 10 years of imprisonment as well as a financial penalty.
The ruling comes in a year when several states have banned beef trade and cow slaughter, stoking an ever-swirling debate with several right-wing organisations supporting these moves while many minority groups and activists have termed such decisions a blow to personal freedom and India’s secular fabric.
A division bench of Justice Dhiraj Singh Thakur and Justice Janak Raj Kotwal instructed the director general of police to issue directions to top police officials of all districts and police stations to ensure there is no sale of beef in the state and strict action is taken against violators.
The court was hearing advocate Parimoksh Seth’s public interest litigation (PIL) that said despite the Ranbir Penal Code provisions, bovine slaughter was rampant in the state. Advocate Sunil Sethi, state unit spokesperson of the BJP, represented the petitioner.
India is the world’s second-largest beef exporter after Brazil, but the BJP and its affiliates have been pushing for a nationwide ban on cow slaughter, as the animal is considered holy by many Hindus.
Home minister Rajnath Singh called for a countrywide prohibition on beef in March.
“How can we accept that cows should be slaughtered in this country? We will do our best to put a ban on this, and we will do whatever it takes to build consensus,” he said.
The same month, Maharashtra extended a ban on the slaughter of cows to bulls and bullocks while Haryana made cow slaughter and beef sale non-bailable offences soon after. Jharkhand and Rajasthan are reportedly considering similar legislation. All these states have BJP-led governments.
The court’s order comes days after some civic bodies in Maharashtra banned the sale of meat during the Jain fasting period of Paryushan, triggering a debate on religious sentiments and individual freedom.
Legal experts in Kashmir said the ban was imposed stringently in the state from 1932 to 1947, but its effect waned afterwards.
“The majority community in the state has never opposed the ban due to a sense of respect for Hindus in the state. This despite the fact that it’s an intrusion on a person’s fundamental right,” said senior lawyer GN Shaheen.