Thrown to Cows

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Tariq Jameel

Tariq-JameelDuring the first years at school, when the English teacher asked us to write an essay on the cow, who would have imagined her to take centre stage in our life, the way it does now? From an innocuous domestic animal, it has been turned into a massive political symbol, an animal which has become the focal point of politics. Not only news items, social media feeds, but even our dining table conversations have also started to be focused around the cow.

That this whole cow business has become serious is now apparent to everyone. The ban against cow slaughter is in force in various Indian states for many decades now. In a recent decision, the BJP led Maharashtra government included other bovine animals in the ambit of this ban. With so much hullabaloo happening over the cow, how would the politically sensitive Kashmir be left behind in this game of cow politics? During the last month, J&K High Court, acting on a PIL, asked the state government to enforce the ban on cow slaughter, which is in the statute books since the autocratic Dogra rulers owned the state. As expected, the High Court decision was met with sharp reaction from Muslim majority Kashmir Valley.

Politicians across the political spectrum reacted strongly to this decision. Coming as it did, just before the Muslim festival of Eid-al-Azha, where Muslims slaughter an animal as part of the ritual sacrifice, this decision, which a large section of Kashmiri Muslims saw as an infringement in their religious obligations, snowballed into a major controversy. On the occasion of Eid, the state government snapped internet connections for over 72 hours. The decision was apparently taken so that no one could upload videos or pictures of slaughter of animals on social media which could vitiate the political environment in the state. This decision by the government was regressive, but not unexpected, given that muzzling of the voice of the people in the state is a cause championed by various dispensations in the state for decades now.

On Thursday, when the opposition members had planned to table a bill in the State Legislative Assembly against this law, it was grounded as the Speaker adjourned the House without taking it up for discussion. The bill was sabotaged by the Speaker who did not allow extension of time beyond the stipulated 1:30 pm deadline. But scuttling of this move did not stop Law Minister from boasting in the Legislative Council that nobody could stop him from consuming beef. But that precisely has been the undoing of PDP: not able to act on what it says. That said, the Assembly witnessed ugly scenes, when a group of unruly BJP legislators thrashed independent legislator Er Rashid, for allegedly hosting a beef party in the MLA Hostel on Wednesday.

At a time, when the state has become further polarised, the state should use all legal means to bring about necessary changes in the archaic provisions of RPC. Let’s be clear about one thing. The debate should not be about religion, but individual freedom to choose what one likes to eat. A state which claims to be secular should not decide what its people choose to eat.

Based in South Indian city of Bangalore, Tariq Jameel is an investment professional with interests in history, politics, sports and of course, financial markets.

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