Self-styled god-woman Radhe Maa feeds a cow in Amritsar on April 11. Cow vigilantes have been attacking people accused of slaughtering the animal revered by orthodox Hindus. (Photo: UCAN/IANS)
The southern Indian state of Karnataka has passed a law banning cow slaughter, which calls for punishment including seven years in jail and a million rupee fine for offenders.
The controversial bill, the Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Bill 2020, was tabled by the state’s Animal Husbandry Minister Prabhu Chavan.
Amid the ruckus and the opposition Congress party staging a walk-out of the Assembly, it was passed on Dec. 9. The opposition vowed to boycott the rest of the Assembly session, calling it a disgrace to democracy.
“It would have been better if the state government had consulted all the political, religious and civil societies before passing the bill because India is a country where meat is considered as food for some, but at the same time, it is not so for others,” Archbishop Peter Machado of Bangalore told UCA News.
“It was also very surprising in the manner it was passed in the Assembly without consulting the opposition party, which is very dangerous for any democratic country,” he said.
“Food is a personal choice so making any law on food should be taken appropriately which will serve the purpose of all. It should not decide what to eat.”
Christians and Muslims are generally seen as beef-eating communities in India, giving the law an anti-minority color.
The controversial new law makes cow slaughter a cognizable offense punishable with three to seven years in prison.
It also bans the transport of cattle within or outside the state for the purpose of slaughter, with a fine of 50,000 rupees per cattle head levied on violators.
The bill also says that those who commit the same offense a second time could face not less than seven years in jail and a fine of 100,000 rupees per cattle, up to 1 million rupees (US$1,350 to 13,500)
The ban includes the slaughter of cows, calves, bulls, bullocks and buffaloes younger than 13 years old. It exempts buffaloes over 13 years of age, diseased cattle and those operated upon for research.
The new law provides for special courts to fast-track trials and police will have the power to conduct searches and make seizures.
Karnataka joins other Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ruled states like Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh in bringing a tough law against cow slaughter and beef.
“The bill was not discussed with us prior to bringing it in the Assembly. It was a surprise for all of us,” Congress party leader Siddaramaiah told media.
“General practice is that whenever a bill is introduced, copies of the bill should be circulated to all the members. The sanctity of the House has been violated,” he said.
Cow vigilantism gained widespread attention when Mohammad Akhlaq, a Muslim farmer from Dadri in Uttar Pradesh was lynched for allegedly possessing beef in his house in September 2015. However, laboratory tests proved the meat was not beef.
Minority groups in India say that since the pro-Hindu BJP came to power in 2014, such incidents have increased with no government official condemning them.
According to IndiaSpend, a data website report of 2019, at least 25 people have been killed in cow-related violence since 2010 and 21 of them were Muslims.
“The Constitution makes the right to food a guaranteed fundamental right which is enforceable by virtue of the constitutional remedy provided under Article 32 of the Constitution,” Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christian, told UCA News.