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Can there be all India Cow slaughter ban? (Government)

Ban on cow slaughter sentiment existed, albeit without a law for thousands of years in this country. ‘Kamadhenu’ or ‘Surabhi’, a divine bovine-goddess is venerated in Hinduism as the mother of all cows. Surabhi means fragrant, charming, and pleasing. It also means cow and earth. Kamadhenu is one who fulfils all that one desires.


The ‘Anushasana Parva’ narrates that Surabhi was born from the belch of ‘the creator’ and gave birth to many ‘Kapila’ Cows or the golden cows. ‘Udyoga Parva’ of the Mahabharata narrates that Brahma created Surabhi. Ramayana, mentions that Surabhi is the daughter of sage Kashyapa. Vishnu Purana and Bhagavata Purana, also refer to Surabhi as the mother of all cows and buffaloes. Harivamsa, an appendix of the Mahabharata, calls Surabhi the mother of Amrita, Brahmins, cows and Rudras. Devi Bhagavata Purana narrates that Krishna created Surabhi which then created Kshirasagara, the cosmic milk ocean.


All this may be mythology. But the holy texts that narrate the cow as sacred are also sacred to a Hindu. This sentiment is deep rooted and also sensitive. Not just Hinduism or Hindus. Even Jainism and Buddhism worship cows. Cows and other cattle played major roles in many religions, including those of ancient Egypt, ancient Greece, ancient Israel and ancient Rome. One must respect each other’s religious susceptibilities. But what if one’s religious susceptibilities is in opposition to the other’s religious susceptibilities?



Forget religion and mythology for a while. Cows are even important for agriculture and the economy. The farmer uses cows to cultivate the fields. Its milk is used for various dairy products. Its ‘gobar’ is used as a fuel, as a manure and in a dry form. is a disinfectant. Human being is the only animal that kills for profit. Even the carnivores kill only when they are hungry. Should we then kill every animal we see because it could be profitable to do so? Animal slaughter is tortuous. Illegal slaughter is a curse on the animals. The Chinese eat dog meat and even have festivals offering such meat. Don’t we blame them for doing so? It is simple. We share an emotional attachment with dogs and hence cannot accept killing them. So are cows.


Several controversies have risen in the wake of a ban on cow slaughter and beef eating in recent times in several states. This has even caused consternation in Muslim, Christian and some other beef eating populations. Should the state make provisions for cow protection? And to what extent? Can there be a legal ban on cow slaughter?


While the Constitution was being written, several leaders had pleaded for cattle slaughter to be made illegal. They had pursued the then congress to enact such laws. However, that did not happen. As a country, there are several rules that placate the minorities. Can’t the majority be placated for once? Even the majority of Muslim leadership in India has, since the days of independence, been always in favour of a nationwide ban on cow slaughter. Why cannot that sentiment be turned in favour of a good cause?


That be as it may, should we relook at the way we practice our democracy? Article 48 of the Indian Constitution states, ‘The state shall endeavour to organise agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and shall, in particular, take steps for preserving and improving the breeds and prohibiting the slaughter of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle’. Is it time this is relooked to remove the ambiguity? After all, directive principles are only directions. They could be made functional only after the passing of laws by legislatures. Some States may do it. Some may not. Then how does one implement Article 48 on an all-India basis?


The Supreme Court, way back in 1958 had ruled  that the people of in the country couldn’t be deprived of food in the form of beef. The ruling put paid to a complete ban. However, it was completely overturned by the apex court in 2005 in a decisive 6-1 verdict. In fact, it even banned the slaughter of old cattle which passed their prime. Doesn’t the interpretation seem contextual? What then is the official position?


Some states, like Gujarat, Maharashtra, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Karnataka have made Article 48 operational after passing laws prohibiting cow slaughter. However, there are others like West Bengal which allow old or unfit cows to be slaughtered with a “fit for slaughter” certificate. This is neither here nor there, knowing the way the implementation agency’s function. Kerala, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura, Manipur and Mizoram have no laws prohibiting cow slaughter and the hotels there openly advertise beef as a delicacy. How does one justify, people being sent to jail in some states for trading in beef when in other states, it is perfectly legal? Are we not citizens of the same country? Are not fundamental rights violated then?


The ambiguity on ‘Gau Raksha’ or cow protection has seen many self-styled cow vigilantes go berserk and indulge in violence. Cow slaughter is very cruel and tortuous as is every other slaughter, right from the time the animals are tied up and transported to the slaughterhouses. Business and profiteering has even seen that cows are reared only for beef. What of the resulting effect on land used for grazing, greenhouse emissions, water usage, pollution and death of the aquatic life?


On cruelty to animals, George Bernard Shaw in ‘Man and Superman’ had said. ‘We cut the throat of a calf and hang it up by the heels to bleed to death so that our veal cutlet may be white; we nail geese to a board and cram them with food because we like the taste of liver disease; we tear birds to pieces to decorate our women’s hats; we mutilate domestic animals for no reason at all except to follow an instinctively cruel fashion; and we connive at the most abominable tortures in the hope of discovering some magical cure for our own diseases by them’. Very poignant indeed.


Skirmishes will continue to happen if religious sentiments are sought to be frayed. They happened in the past. They may happen in future. Can we then begin by raiding all the illegal slaughter houses and at least ban cow slaughter throughout the country?

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