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The revered cow is a common sight in many Indian cities

Christians decry bill banning cow slaughter

April 13 2010

MANGALORE, India (UCAN) -- Christians in Karnataka say a bill the state legislature passed banning cow slaughter violates human rights and targets religious minorities such as Christians and Muslims.

Father Faustine Lobo, the Catholic Church's spokesperson in the state, told UCA News on April 12 that the government passed the bill to target religious minorities. The pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (Indian people's party) now rules the state.

On April 10, a team of Hindus and Muslims sent a memorandum to state Governor Hans Raj Bharadwaj urging him not to sign the bill. Although the state legislature passed the bill on March 19, it requires the governor's signature to become law.

While Orthodox Hindus consider the cow a god, beef is part of the regular food of most Christians, Muslims and lower-caste Hindus. Some Muslims are also engaged in the beef-processing business.

The bill makes no distinction between cows and other cattle and makes slaughter of all forms of cattle including buffaloes a punishable crime. The bill also prohibits the sale, use and possession of beef and puts restrictions on the transport of cattle.

The Hindu-Muslim memorandum says the bill is "discriminatory" as it "targets the food habits of the most vulnerable and the weak," dalit (low caste), Muslims and Christians.
Bill would impact minority communities
Some Christians also have appealed to the governor not to sign the bill.

"The government is directly hitting the minority communities with some vested interests," Father Lobo said.

The bill empowers government officials to confiscate and seal off premises that hold beef. Merely stocking or transporting cattle is a punishable act with jail terms.

Father Jose Valiaparambil, vicar general of Belthangady diocese in the state, also finds it "wrong to curtail the freedom of minorities by law."

Banning cow slaughter "means negation of the human rights of the minorities and farmers" who rear cattle for food as a business, he asserted.

However, the diocese has asked its people "not to hurt the sentiments of the Hindus on this issue" although beef is a major part of their food, the priest told UCA News.

Hindus form 84 percent of the state's 53 million people. Muslims form 12 percent and Christians 2 percent.

Defending the bill, state Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa told media that it aims to protect cows and preserve cattle wealth in the state. He also pointed out that states such as Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir, and Madhya Pradesh already have similar laws.

IB09409.1597 April 13, 2010 42 EM-lines (406 words)

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