Monavvar Alam - India
Meat industry in India is on the brink of disaster. In fact, the entire meat economy, of which Muslims hold the substantial proportion, is being threatened by the actions of the right wing governments, both at the centre as well as at state levels. In the last two months different states in India have tried to implement sweeping cattle slaughter bans and the bans on transportation of cattle across states.
The recently elected state government in the state of Uttar Pradesh under the leadership of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, has been on the forefront in this respect. All over the state, the bans are being enforced violently both by the law enforcing agencies, including police and also by numerous Hindu rightist groups of cow vigilante. Out of these many groups and bands, two most active ones are World Hindu Federation and Hindu Yuva Vahini (Hindu Youth Brigade) and both are incidentally headed by none other than Yogi Adityanath himself.
The closure of Uttar Pradesh's slaughterhouses will leave millions of people jobless in the state and severely affect its allied industries. It will also choke small but important revenue streams for its poor farmers and meat sellers. With a population of 200 million people in Uttar Pradesh, equivalent to the population of Brazil or four times the population of England, the state's economy is already in the pathetic condition. Any further blow to the livelihood of common people will have devastating impacts.
Today, however, the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister has reportedly cautioned the Hindu groups to stay away from vigilantism amid rising outrage over a string of violence by so-called cow protectors and right-wing outfits. Such cautions have no meaning so long as the law enforcing agencies work hand in gloves with law-breaking hoodlums of these right wing activists and they are mostly served as whitewash for the media.
As such cow politics is not new thing in India. The Rightist groups including the ruling Bhartiya Janata party (BJP) have always used it to implement their nefarious and divisive political agenda. The cow is considered holy by many Hindus. Taking advantage of this matter of faith, the BJP has made it the centerpiece of its agenda that includes calling for a nationwide ban on cattle slaughter. With every statement of top ranking leaders the low level Hindu right-wing cadres get more emboldened to indulge in violence and moral policing. The go around beating people and breaking the laws of land with impunity – all in the name of cow protection. Obviously, Muslim population being most active in meat trade becomes their natural target everywhere.
Initially it was assumed that they would confine themselves to cows and their slaughter in Uttar Pradesh. However, within 48 hours of the new BJP government assuming power there, they began a state-wise crackdown on all slaughter houses, including those of buffalo beef, ostensibly executing with immediate effect their election manifesto promise of “shutting down illegal slaughter houses, and all mechanized slaughter houses.
In the financial year 2015-16, carabeef was India’s highest earning agri-export commodity, estimated at Rs 26685.41 crore. Under the present move to close slaughterhouses the most export units in UP seem to have already reached at the brink of closure. If the BJP government’s plan mentioned in its election manifesto to shut down “all mechanized slaughterhouses” is carried through in the way it is being done at present, it will directly impact the entire spectrum of meat export units, leading to a complete collapse of India’s meat exports, dairy markets and also drastically affect the livelihoods of marginal and small farmers who heavily depend on cattle. The lucrative meat export industry in India that thrives on sales to 65 countries, including Malaysia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, is severely threatened by the cow politics. It also has had damaging impact on other allied industries such as dairy farming, meat packaging, livestock and leather industries.
Although, most BJP leaders make it a cow protection issue and claim that their campaign is basically aimed at maintaining the law that seeks to ban the slaughter of cows only, it is clearly driven by the party's narrow sectarian agenda to weaken the country's minority communities and destroy their economic well-being.
As such, the cow slaughter is already banned in most of 29 states in India. What is widely consumed as “beef” in India is buffalo meat. However, in some regions cow meats are sold. Especially in Hindi speaking region cow protection sentiments are quite intense among some groups of Hindu population. The BJP leaders try to take advantage of this sentiment to fulfill their hidden political agenda.
With the party leaders openly speaking on these issues and provoking the sentiments of people, it has given rise to numerous cow vigilante groups, mostly comprising of criminal elements always ready toot or grab easy money by hook or by crook. In the name of cow protection they stand on roads and highways and force the passing vehicles to stop for checking animal meat inside. In the process they manhandle innocent people and rob them of their precious earnings.
These groups also enter into meat shops or even houses of some people on the pretext that they want to check the meat there. Over the months many shops selling mutton and poultry were attacked by these criminal mobs in Uttar Pradesh.
The UP government’s drive is really about a shutdown of government slaughterhouses, the only beef source for domestic consumption, affecting the entire market chain comprising workers, meat sellers and consumers. In the name of ‘illegality’, their actions are clearly communal, directed to economically cripple the Muslim community, many of whom depend on the sector for their livelihood, as also force a closure of domestic beef consumption, because it is according to the hidden agenda of the BJP’s ideological wing, the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, commonly referred to as Sangh Pariwar (Federation family). Indeed, it is the RSS that pulls the power strings in the country and sets the nation-wide Hindu rightist agenda.
Of total Indian buffalo beef exports, the state of Uttar Pradesh alone has a share of 67 percent. According a 2015 data, of the total buffalo beef produced in the country, nearly 47 percent was domestically consumed and the remaining 53 percent was exported outside the country.
With the recent sweeping bans and clampdown on slaughterhouses in UP, as is currently underway in such high-handed manner, the entire market chains for meat industry in general and buffalo-rearing farmers in particular will be severely impacted. They will no longer have an opportunity to sell their dry or culled dairy females to traders, workers, meat sellers or domestic consumers. Moreover, such bans are putting the fundamental rights to food under grievous threat.
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