Ban on sale of cattle for slaughter: Congress walks tightrope

Suspends Youth Congress workers who butchered calf, but does not critique Centre’s ban

Published - May 30, 2017 09:54 pm IST - NEW DELHI

On the boil:  During a Delhi BJP Yuva Morcha protest in New Delhi on Tuesday at the Congress headquarters against cow slaughter by Youth Congress leaders in Kerala.

On the boil: During a Delhi BJP Yuva Morcha protest in New Delhi on Tuesday at the Congress headquarters against cow slaughter by Youth Congress leaders in Kerala.

The Centre’s ban on the sale and purchase of cattle for slaughter from animal markets has placed the Congress in a tight corner politically. The party feels that the Bharatiya Janata Party wants to further its polarising agenda with the ban following three years of attacks by vigilante groups on cow traders, those engaged in skinning dead cattle for leather, or those suspected of eating beef, with the victims being either Muslims or Dalits.

Stern action

The Congress’s quandary was reflected in its unqualified condemnation of Youth Congress workers, who butchered a calf publicly in Kerala in protest against the ban. They were later suspended. The party’s communication chief, Randeep Surjewala, said, “India’s ethos and Congress ... culture abjures any kind of violence or barbarism against every living being much less the cow, which has a special place in the hearts and minds of the people of India.”

He had taken his cue from party vice-president Rahul Gandhi who had tweeted: “What happened in Kerala yesterday [on Sunday] is thoughtless, barbaric & completely unacceptable to me & the Congress Party. I strongly condemn the incident.” But the condemnation of the gory episode was not accompanied by any critique of the Centre’s move: this has caused discomfort in some sections of the Congress.

Multiple impact

For the new Regulation of Livestock Markets Rules, 2017, does not just violate the principle of federalism — a point Chief Ministers of some Opposition-ruled States have already made — but it also promises to have economic consequences. And in the States such as Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Goa, West Bengal and the Northeast, where cattle meat — largely buffalo meat — is consumed, it also constitutes an attack on the freedom of choosing what to eat.

In Karnataka, for instance, where currently there is no ban on cow slaughter, the Congress government, taking its cue from Mr. Gandhi’s statement, used the police on Tuesday to stop a “beef fest” organised by students’ unions to protest against the Centre’s ban on trade of cattle for slaughter. However, in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, “beef fests” were held on Monday.

Commenting on the BJP’s intent, former Union Minister Manish Tewari told The Hindu , “Through the Rules, the BJP wants to emphasise the otherness of the other ... Congress State governments in the past have enacted cow protection laws. However, the intent was never to demonise the other but to respond to local sensitivities. The BJP only wants to promote lumpenism in the name of the cow.”

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