ByRushda Fathima Khan

Days ahead of Eid ul Adha (Bakrid) in Bengaluru, six cattle were seized from the city’s DJ Halli area, a Muslim-majority locality. A case was filed under the newly introduced Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Ordinance 2020, following a complaint from Gau Gyan Foundation. 

The foundation, whose stated objective is to ‘save, protect & preserve Cows & progeny’, said that they were able to seize six ‘bulls’ with the help of police.

“Many Muslims were not aware of the recent ban on bull meat. This led to uncomfortable situations, cattle seizings and police intervention, in the days leading up to Bakrid,” Khasim Shoaib Qureshi, from Chaluvali Movement, said. 

Under the law, ‘cattle’ is defined as cow, calf of a cow and bull, bullock and male/female buffalo below the age of thirteen years.

“It is very rare that cattle live up to the age of 13 years. The longevity of the cattle’s life has reduced due to changes in food consumption,” Qureshi added.

‘Why ban Bull Meat when their sympathy is for Cows?’

Referring to the BJP government’s championing of cow protection, Qureshi said, “the BJP government is capitalizing on the issue for communal reasons. Cow slaughter has been banned since 1964. The current changes in the law have only banned the slaughter of male counterparts – bulls as well.”

“Why is the ban on bull meat necessary when their sympathy is for cows?” he asked. “What is the logic of allowing buffalo slaughter while banning bull slaughter? If the issue is about not slaughtering animals- why ban only the bull?” he further questioned. “They have taken this step in order to further suppress the Muslim community and the farmers economically.”

Impact on Livelihood of Farmers, Brokers, Transporters, Butchers

Bengaluru is the biggest market for beef in the state. It accounted for nearly 40% of beef produced in the state in 2019-20. Qureshi says that the law is a big blow to the beef trade in the city. “In Bengaluru, and South Karnataka, the meat of bulls and bullocks is in great demand, as very few people consume buffalo meat.”

In 2018-19 and 2019-20, buffaloes amounted to just 2-3% of total large animals slaughtered.

The new law will leave many families involved in selling beef on the streets. “A large section of the Muslim community is involved in the slaughtering process, all of whom have lost their means for livelihood. All those involved in the leather industry and the bone industry have also been affected. Brokers involved in the sale of cattle, the transporters have all lost their means to employment,” Qureshi added.

“The Muslim community, particularly those involved in the slaughtering profession have been shamefully treated. Now, the government has even removed our source of livelihood. All the slaughterhouses are closed.”

Beef is comparatively cheaper than other meat and is consumed by Dalits, backward classes, sections of Hindus, Christians, served in international and continental restaurants, apart from being consumed by Muslims

“Cattle are like the ATM of a farmer. It is one of their biggest assets. When an animal stops producing milk or cannot breed, farmers sell the cattle and use the amount to sustain their livelihood. One animal is around 1 lakh, not less than 50,000. But now they are not even able to sell it for 10,000. Nobody is willing to buy it, due to the government’s order,” Qureshi explained. 

Farmers usually sell unproductive oxen and re-invest the money in buying a new ox. With the current laws, most farmers are forced to turn their oxen loose, with no one willing to buy them. 

Karnataka seems to be headed in the direction of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan—two states with some of the most stringent provisions against cattle slaughter—which account for nearly half of the 50.21 lakh stray cattle running loose in the country.

Vigilante Violence

The law also has stringent provisions against the transport of cattle inside the state. This has led to apprehension about vigilante violence.

“The Gao Gyan Foundation was started 20 years ago. They have been seizing animals for years, most of them without authorisation and official processes- by manhandling and verbal threats. They don’t check the body weight, age, cost of transportation and other details,” Qureshi said adding that “they only proudly claim that they have seized lakhs of cattle- but they don’t reveal the specifications. Many times even the male bull has been seized but they claim it is a cow.”

In the first arrest after the enforcement of the law in Karnataka, a driver- Abid Ali, was not only arrested but subjected to violent torture by a group of cow ‘vigilantes’, who also looted  ₹22,000 cash and two mobile phones.

The driver was transporting 12 to 15 cattle in his truck. He claimed that he had all necessary documents to show that he was transporting cattle with permits issued by the RMC yard officials and a certificate issued by a veterinarian in Ranebennur. ”I was told the cattle were being taken for agriculture purposes, not to a slaughterhouse. I had the documents to show that nothing was illegal in transporting them,” he had said.

The driver- the only bread earner of his family with three children, sustained multiple fractures and was expected to undergo surgery and not return to work for eight months.

The Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Bill was passed in the Karnataka Assembly on December 9 but the government did not table the same in the Legislative Council. The Government then chose to pass an Ordinance to bring in the law. The law puts a blanket ban on cattle slaughter, sale, and consumption, and refers to “any person exercising powers under this Act” as people acting in “good faith”, raising grave concerns over violent vigilantism. Under the law, the slaughter of cattle will lead to imprisonment of up to 3 to 7 years and a fine ranging from Rs 50,000 to Rs 5 lakh. Subsequent offences will attract imprisonment of up to 7 years and a fine from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 10 lakh.