The ban on beef is falling flat in the Kashmir Valley despite a court order.
With Boulevard, Srinagar’s tourist hotspot, abuzz with local picnickers gorging themselves on beef steaks with chutney, the fresh ban order has only added to the volatile atmosphere in the Valley.
Most political parties, except the Bharatiya Janata Party, are opposing the ban in a State where the Muslim population stands at 70 per cent.
After the main Opposition National Conference declared that it would bring in a Bill in the Assembly session starting next month to amend the law banning beef sale in J&K, Engineer Rashid, a firebrand legislator who heads the Awami Ittihaad Party, announced on Thursday that he would start a signature campaign. “A district-wise signature campaign will be started to press every MLA to vote in favour of the Bill,” Mr. Rashid said. “There will be a sit-in in Srinagar on October 3, on the eve of the start of the Assembly session.”
Qazi Ahmad Yasir, south Kashmir’s well-known priest whose father, Qazi Nissar, spearheaded a campaign against the beef sale ban in 1986, observed a hunger strike against the ban on Thursday.
The right-wing parties, seeking the implementation of the ban in place since 1932, are fast losing ground.
Admitting a fresh petition for revocation of Section 298-A/B/C/D of the Ranbir Penal Code, the High Court on Wednesday asked the State government to respond to a writ petition filed by S.M. Afzal Qadri, a former Professor in the University of Kashmir.
“It [the law] curtails and criminalises the right to profess and propagate one’s religion, which otherwise is a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 35 of the Constitution of India. The provisions have no nexus with Article 48 of the Constitution of India, and therefore cannot be a basis to criminalise an act of a citizen, which otherwise is provided to him by the divine law of nature, in the nature of his religious practices and rituals,” the petitioner said.
The BJP ensured that the public interest litigation (PIL) petition, submitted by lawyer Parimoksh Seth, who is also Deputy Advocate-General, was not withdrawn, despite the government’s insistence.
Additional Advocate-General Vishal Sharma, government counsel in the case, has been removed from the Home Department for “failing to defend the case.” “Our stand is clear. We feel the decision taken by the High Court to ban beef must be strictly implemented,” BJP State president Jugal Kishore Sharma said.
In Jammu, Mr. Sharma spoke bluntly, despite Mehbooba Mufti, president of the Peoples Democratic Party, an ally of the BJP, opposing the ban. “I don’t know what the PDP president said, but we will not allow any Bill to go through the Assembly to revoke the ban on the slaughter of bovines,” he said.