Fadnavis’ experiment with cow adoption stirs row

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis   | Photo Credit: PTI

Under fire for his government’s ban on the slaughter of bulls and bullocks, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has triggered a fresh controversy with his “experiment” to keep a cow and a calf at his official bungalow, Varsha, in South Mumbai.

Mr. Fadnavis is away in China with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. His chief adviser, Ravikiran Deshmukh, told The Hindu that the Chief Minister “did try” to keep a cow, but “he sent it back” a few days ago.

The cow and the calf, which were brought from Latur district, were sent back as they were unable to adjust to the new setting.

“After a hectic journey, the cow was unable to adjust and had stopped eating. We did not want anything to happen to the cow; so it was sent back. It will be brought back to Varsha in a couple of days,” a BJP leader said.

However, when Mr. Deshmukh was asked if the animals would be brought back to the bungalow, he said though Mr. Fadnavis was willing, “it looks unlikely that he will do so — not in the near future.”

The BJP leaders said Mr. Fadnavis’s experiment could be extended to party MLAs, MPs and Ministers who could have to shelter a cow each. While it is not known if adopting a cow flouts any rule of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, BJP spokesperson Madhav Bhandari said: “If people can keep dogs as pets, then why not cows?”

Bouquets, brickbats

Though Mr. Fadnavis’s endeavour received much support from BJP and RSS leaders, with many taking to social media to congratulate him “for setting an example,” he received much flak from the Opposition and beef traders. They termed his act pointless.

Mohammad Ali Qureshi, president, Suburban Mumbai Beef Traders Association, said that by regularly raking up the issue of the “cow,” the BJP government was misleading the debate in order to rouse religious sentiments.

The current beef ban has nothing to do with the cow — cow slaughter has been banned in Maharashtra since 1976 — but about bulls and bullocks, Mr. Qureshi said. “By regularly referring to the word cow, the government is merely attempting to give the ban a religious colour and deflect criticism,” Mr. Qureshi said.

Congress MLA Amin Patel hit out at the experiment calling it a “mere gimmick.” “If the CM is so worried about the cattle, why doesn’t he adopt the infirm and old bulls and bullocks from farmers to solve their crisis? Merely adopting a single cow and a calf, which has nothing to do with the present ban, won’t solve anything for thousands of suffering farmers,” he said.

After President Pranab Mukherjee gave his assent to the Maharashtra State Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act, 1995, slaughter of bulls and bullocks is banned and punishable by five-year jail and a Rs. 10,000 fine. Slaughter of water buffaloes, however, is legal.

The new law has the potential of being used as a “weapon of harassment” and hurt the financial interests of those even working legally, Mr. Qureshi said.

Butcher held, meat seized

On Tuesday, the police in Worli arrested a butcher and seized 29 kg of meat from him after a VHP activist filed a complaint that he was selling bull meat.

The butcher, whose business was disrupted, said it was buffalo meat, but the police slapped charges against him and sent the seized meat to a laboratory for testing to ascertain if the meat was of a bull or buffalo.

“This is what we had feared, a sure-shot way of harassment. Anyone can be falsely implicated. Since the burden is on the meat seller, they have to prove their innocence and pay for the DNA test and bail, while also incurring loss of business,” Mr. Qureshi said.

Led by the Ramdas Athavale-led Republican Party of India (A), an ally of the ruling BJP-Shiv Sena combine, beef traders and organisations will stage a dharna in Mumbai on May 19 in protest against the ban.

They could call for the shutting down of work at slaughterhouses across the State, including the Deonar Abattoir in suburban Mumbai — the largest slaughterhouse in Asia.

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Printable version | Sep 28, 2020 9:17:21 AM |

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