The crisis in India with respect to the meat ban is opening communal wounds that will not be healed soon — even after the authorities work out some sort of solution. The demands by right-wing Hindu groups to stop the slaughter of cows is only among a list of prohibitions they want imposed to target minority religious groups. Already, the crackdown on unlicensed abattoirs in India’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh (UP) has spread to other parts of the country ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), leading to a greater sense of persecution and alienation amongst Indian Muslims.
That this ban is completely political in nature, as all such bans have been since the BJP took power, is glaring. Muslims dominate the meat market and India is the world’s greatest exporter of meat with UP alone accounting for half of the country’s slaughterhouses and meat processing plants. The people of UP have seen more economic prosperity in the past decade than was earlier imagined and this crackdown since Yogi Adityanath took over is eating at people’s livelihoods. The political nature of this ban is even more evident in light of election campaigns in northeastern states, which go to polls next year. Beef is widely consumed in Christian majority Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland and the BJP has clarified that there would be no prohibition on meat consumption there. When it comes to elections, then, the sacredness of the buffalo is completely forgotten in the northeastern states.
The BJP must realise on what dangerous grounds it is treading. The deadly riots in Gujrat in 2002 and the massacre of Sikhs in the ‘80s are not too distant a memory.
Our common beginnings as two separate states is also a painful memory. Let us never forget that bloodshed.
Pakistan has already lost too much. We sincerely hope better sense prevails in India before it is too late.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 1st, 2017.