BJP-ruled Jharkhand will amend a 2005 law to bring in stringent penalties for cow slaughter and smuggling and sale of beef, officials said on Wednesday, aiming to follow Maharashtra in clamping down on violators.
Chief minister Raghubar Das spelt out the government’s proposal during his budget speech in the assembly on Tuesday, drawing a long round of applause from ruling BJP legislators.
Earlier this week, Maharashtra imposed a blanket ban on cow slaughter and beef trade, stirring a nationwide debate on the issue and irking opposition parties and civil society organisations which questioned the “restricted mind” of BJP-ruled governments.
The erstwhile BJP government led by former chief minister Arjun Munda had brought in the Prevention of Cow Slaughter Ordinance in 2005 which was later made an act. It carried penalty of Rs 5,000 and imprisonment of up to five years or both for offenders.
Raghubar Das was the deputy chief minister of the state then and had played an instrumental role in the passage of the act in the assembly.
Officials in the chief minister’s office, however, said the act was never “implemented holistically”.
A senior official not authorised to speak to the media said that the BJP government was planning to increase the imprisonment period to up to 10 years and make cow slaughter a non-bailable offense, unlike the earlier act.
“Now that the proposal has been tabled in the assembly, it’s (just) a matter of time when the changes will take place,” said Sanjay Kumar, principal secretary to the chief minister.
The BJP and its allies have a strength of 48 in the 81-member assembly.
The opposition said the government’s move will violate citizens’ rights.
“They (BJP) are working on the agendas of the RSS,” state Congress president Sukhdeo Bhagat said.
Sushanto Mukherjee, central committee member of the Left’s Marxist Coordination Committee (MCC), said the proposal was “baseless” and was intended to violate the basic rights of citizens in the country.
“I should have the right to decide what to eat,” he said.
Sources in the All India Gaushala Federation in Jharkhand said that the state is a major source of cattle smuggling to Bangladesh, a Muslim-majority country.
At least 5,000 cows are smuggled from Jharkhand to Bangladesh every month, mainly through Rampurhat in West Bengal, about 65 km from Dumka district, sources said.