J&K beef ban order is not new, but still an oppressive, majoritarian breach of fundamental rights
The Jammu and Kashmir High Court’s order to enforce a strict imposition of 153 year old beef ban, just ahead of Eid Ul Adha, has triggered wave of anger among people in India’s only Muslim majority state. Various socio-religious organisations have condemned the ban, while activists have termed the decision as a blow to personal freedom.
On Wednesday, while hearing to a Public Interest Litigation brought by advocate Parimoksh Seth, the high court division bench of Justice Dhiraj Singh Thakur and Justice Janak Raj Kotwal instructed police officials to “strictly enforce” an 1862 ban on slaughtering and sale of bovine animals, which had been imposed by the then Dogra Maharaja.
“The Director General of Police...is directed to ensure that appropriate directions are issued to all the SSPs/SPs, SHOs of various police districts so that there is no sale of beef anywhere in the state of J&K and strict action is taken in accordance with law against those who indulge in it,” the bench observed.
The ruling comes in a year when several states have banned beef trade and cow slaughter, raising fears among the public that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party is trying to impose a dietary restrictions on the entire population.
Not a New Ban
The court did not order a ban on beef but only a reiterated on a section of 1932 law under Ranbir Penal Code, which was never properly imposed. Because of its special status, the state has two penal codes, the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Ranbir Penal Code (RPC), both of which have almost all sections in common except for a few.
Under section 298A and 298B of the Rabir Penal Code, slaughtering a cow, ox or buffalo is a cognizable, non-bailable offence punishable with 10 years imprisonment and fine. While, possessing the flesh of such an animal is a cognizable, non-bailable offence punishable with imprisonment of one year and fine.
Mr. Seth filed the litigation citing that slaughtering and consumption of beef hurt the religious sentiments of a particular section of the society. Speaking to TNM, he said “The law already existed but was never properly implemented. The PIL brought it to the notice of the court and sought its proper adherence.”
“I don’t wish to stir any controversies. I have filled PIL’s before and this is just another one,” he added.
Just days ahead of Eid Ul Adha, the court’s order comes as a huge surprise to the state’s Muslim population who are enthusiastic meat eaters and also sacrifice cow, sheep and camel on Eid. People expressed strong reactions against the ban on social media and on the streets, calling it sheer majoritarianism.
Beef traders claim that several thousands of them, mainly from the Muslim community, will be rendered jobless because of this ban, and it will also push up the cost of other meat. Beef costs almost a third of mutton and is a popular red-meat choice among people.
“We have been selling beef at our shop for all my life. This is how I support my family. Nobody can stop me from doing it,” says Abdul Majeed Bhat, who owns a meat shop in Srinagar.
Meanwhile J&K High Court Bar Association (HCBA) here has decided to challenge the courts order. “The High Court order violates the fundamental freedom of the people more particularly Muslims of J&K and we’ll challenge both section 298A and 298B in the court,” said advocate Mohammad Ashraf Bhat, general secretary HCBA.
Reacting to the beef ban, the chairman of Hurriyat Conference (G) Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chairman Yasin Malik called for a valley-wide shutdown on Saturday. Geelani also appealed people to stage post-Friday prayers’ protests.