Organised by the Sarva Shramik Sangh under the umbrella of the New Trade Union Initiative, the protest started out at Maharashtra’s largest abattoir in Deonar and ended with nearly four hours of speeches and sloganeering at Azad Maidan. Union leaders also presented a detailed letter of dissent to the chief minister through Madhav Bhandari, the only representative of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party present at the protest.
Lashing out against the state government’s decision on March 2 to extend the long-standing ban on cow slaughter to bulls and bullocks, the protesters repeatedly emphasised that the change has left more than “one crore Maharashtrians” without a source of livelihood, besides stripping consumers of their right to choose their own food.
Besides students and beef consumers from a variety of backgrounds, a delegation of sanitation workers from Mumbai participated in the protest to support those directly affected by the ban. “I don’t eat beef from bulls or bullocks, but it’s not right when so many people lose their jobs,” said Baghuram Salve, a sanitation worker.
Most prominent among the protesters, however, were members of the All India Jamiatul Qureshi, an organisation of the Qureshi caste of Muslims historically engaged as butchers. Here are some of their stories.
‘I tried killing myself this week’
Farida Ansari at the Azad Maidan protest.
Seated amidst a small group of 40-50 women protesters in a corner of Azad Maidan, Farida Ansari didn’t stand out. But the red marks on the neck of the distraught 40-year-old had a dark story to tell.