As Assam passes bill to regulate cattle slaughter, CM Himanta Sarma talks about communal harmony
The legislation in Assam to regulate slaughter, consumption and transportation of cattle has no ill intention and it will strengthen communal harmony, chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has said. The legislation doesn't intend to stop anyone from consuming beef, but the person who eats so must also respect the religious sentiments of others, the chief minister said.
“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,” Himanta Sarma said during his reply on a discussion on the legislation on Friday.
The Assam Cattle Preservation Bill, 2021, was passed through a voice vote even as opposition members staged a walkout from the House. They wanted the bill to be sent to a Select Committee during a two-hour discussion on the legislation. The legislation will regulate the transportation and slaughter of all cattle and the sale of beef and beef products but will not ban the beef business in the state.
Under the legislation, all cow genus, including bull, calf and heifer will be considered as cattle in Assam. However, buffaloes will be exempted from provisions of the legislation. Cattle slaughter is permitted in Assam with certain procedural conditions, as is the sale and consumption of beef.
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“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 the sentiments of Hindus as much as Hindus respect the sentiments of Muslims,” Himanta Sarma added.
Sarma also referred to Muslim MLAs in the House during his reply. "I would like it more if you do not eat beef at all, though I can’t stop you from it. I respect your right. Conflict starts when we stop respecting other’s religions," he said.
Sarma added they should take the initiative of ensuring that sentiments of the Hindus or any other community are not hurt because of beef consumption as he addressed legislators of the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), a party that represents religious minorities. "It can't be that only Hindus are responsible for maintaining communal harmony, Muslims must also reciprocate," he said.
The legislation seeks to ensure that permission for slaughter is not granted to areas predominantly inhabited by Hindu, Jain, Sikh and other non-beef eating communities. This will also cover places that fall within the five-kilometre radius of a temple, satra or a Vaishnavite monastery, and any other institution as prescribed by the authorities. However, exemptions might be granted for certain religious occasions.
The legislation states that it aims to check thetransport of bovines within the state or outside if valid documents are not made available to the authorities, though there will be no restriction on ferrying cattle for agricultural purposes within a district.
Those found guilty of violating the rules under the legislation shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than three years or a fine that may vary between ₹3 lakh and ₹5 lakh or both. The punishment will be doubled if someone convicted under the new law is found guilty of the same or a related offence the second time.