Assam approves bill to regulate cattle slaughter, transport, sale of beef | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Assam approves bill to regulate cattle slaughter, transport, sale of beef

By, Hindustan Times, Guwahati
Aug 14, 2021 06:26 AM IST

The definition of cattle, as per the bill, includes all cow genus, including bull, calf and heifer. Chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma informed the House that buffaloes will be exempted from provisions of the Bill.

The Assam assembly on Friday passed a controversial legislation regulating the transportation, and slaughter of all cattle, and sale of beef and beef products in the state. Though the bill does not ban the beef business, experts said it virtually shuts all doors on running it in the state.

Assam chief minister Himanta Biswar Sarma.(PTI file photo)
Assam chief minister Himanta Biswar Sarma.(PTI file photo)

The definition of cattle, as per the bill, includes all cow genus, including bull, calf and heifer. Chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma informed the House that buffaloes will be exempted from provisions of the Bill.

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Cattle slaughter is permitted in Assam with certain procedural conditions, as is the sale and consumption of beef.

The Assam Cattle Preservation Bill, 2021, was passed through a voice vote after opposition members, who wanted the Bill to be sent to a Select Committee during a two-hour discussion on the legislation, staged a walk out from the House.

The legislation bans interstate transport of cows through Assam, ostensibly to control their smuggling to neighbouring Bangladesh. It also bans transport of cattle from other states through Assam to places outside the state, and from any place within Assam to places outside the state “where slaughter of cattle is not regulated by law”. Further, movement of cattle from one place within the state to another located in Assam is also restricted, though a competent authority may issue permits for the transport of cattle for bona fide agricultural or animal husbandry purposes.

The bill also bans the sale of beef in areas with a predominant population of Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and other non-beef-eating communities, or within a radius of 5km of any temple, ‘satra’ (Vaishnavite monastery) “or other religious institutions belonging to Hindu religion”.

Violations of the provisions of the bill could lead to imprisonment for three to eight years and fine between 3 lakh and 5 lakh.

“Data shows that most of the cases of communal tension in Lower Assam in the past few years are related to beef. The provisions of the Bill will lead to communal harmony as it would allow those who consume beef to eat it with some restrictions and also respect the sentiments of non-beef eating communities like Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs,” Sarma said.

“We don’t have any ill intention in introducing the Bill. And real Muslims who understand it would have no opposition to it. There’s no ban on eating beef, those who want can eat it 5km away from temples and satras. Communal harmony can prevail only when Muslims respect sentiments of Hindus as much as Hindus respect the sentiments of Muslims,” he added.

The Opposition suggested 76 amendments to the Bill including, removal of restrictions on interdistrict transportation of cattle, relaxation of the ban on slaughter of cattle within a 5km radius of temples and satras (Vaishnavite monasteries), and the removalof strict penalties such as eight-year imprisonment and heavy fines for violators.

Its leaders also contended that the state will lose revenue since the cattle trade in Assam is worth 20,000 crores annually.

“The proposed bill in its present form can lead to various problems for people associated with cattle trade, beef products and business in cattle skin etc. I propose that it should be sent to a select committee of assembly to get their views on its efficacy,” said Congress legislature party leader Debabrata Saikia.

“Instead of looking at this Bill from a religious perspective, one needs to view it from other angles. Unlike popularly believed, consumption of beef is not mandatory among Muslims and Christians. It is a food product like any other. We should see what impact socio-economic impact the Bill would have in Assam,” said All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) MLA Aminul Islam.

Experts criticised the bill, saying that it “targeted at a particular community and has a communal angle”. “It is worth mentioning that this Bill was the first one introduced in the newly elected assembly by the second BJP-led government in Assam. It is extremely worrying that at a time when human lives are in peril due to Covid-19, the government is more focussed on protecting cows. It would have an adverse impact on rural economy irrespective of religion, caste or community as many are involved in raising cows and their trade. Instead of protecting cows through this Bill, the government should have looked at improving the shabby infrastructure of veterinary hospitals in the state. The government may say otherwise, the Bill is targeted at a particular community and has a communal angle. It’s an out and out political move and sends a very bad signal at a time when the state is facing multiple challenges due to Covid-19,” said Akhil Ranjan Dutta, political science professor at Gauhati University.

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