Two days after President Pranab Mukherjee gave his assent to the long-pending Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Bill, 1995, VHP activists forced all slaughterhouses in Mumbai to close down.
“We have filed a contempt of court petition against the police for allowing slaughter of cows even after the law was passed. We will ensure immediate application of the law,” VHP central executive member Vyankatesh Abdeo told The Hindu on Wednesday.
But Abdul Qureshi of the Beef Traders’Association said the ban would drive people of his community jobless, in the absence of an alternative plan by the government. “This has been the trade of our ancestors. What will we do now? We have been virtually driven jobless,” he said.
Not only will the ban hit the Qureshi community, it will also hamper the livelihood of those engaged in linked trades, in particular leather. Mohammed Qureshi, president of the Mumbai Suburban Beef Dealers’ Association, said criminalizing the trade could lead to smuggling of beef. In the short run, it could lead to a hike in the prices of other varieties of meat.
Maharashtra contributes about a fourth to the country’s buffalo meat market, with more than 1,000 animals being slaughtered daily in Pune district. Each animal provides on average 200kg of meat.
Last month, beef traders had gone on an indefinite strike to protest against rightwing groups who were seizing their cattle. The strike was called off after Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis assured them that their business would not be affected.
Traders claimed rightwing outfits targeted trucks carrying cattle to Pune, and spirited away the bovines to ‘gaushalas’.
“Activists, particularly from the Sangh Parivar and its affiliates, trouble us on the pretext of animal cruelty and to implement their cow protection agenda,” said Anees Qureshi, a beef trader.
“More than 20,000 heads of cattle have been seized during such raids. In 2013, a youth was even beaten up on Katraj Road in Pune in one such incident,” said Mr. Chowdhary.
Adding a third dimension to the ban, Shetkari Sanghatana, an association of farmers, opposed it on the ground that it would impose a further economic burden on them in the form of forced preservation of aging cattle.