BY PARTH M.N. AND
LOS ANGELES TIMES/TNS
MUMBAI, India – The Indian government has issued a nationwide ban on selling cattle for slaughter, the toughest measure yet imposed to protect cows, an animal that conservative Hindus regard as sacred.
Under new rules issued this week, the government ordered that no cows or buffaloes could be traded at a livestock market without a signed declaration by the owner that the animal was not being sold for slaughter.
Anyone buying livestock would have to present a document showing that he or she is an “agriculturalist.”
The rules came as part of a tough new law against animal cruelty, but commentators said they were aimed at placating hardline Hindu supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s nationalist government.
Hindus form an overwhelming majority among India’s 1.3 billion people, and many of them eschew beef out of respect for the bovine.
But beef, which is cheaper in India than many other sources of protein, is a major part of the diet of Muslims, Christians and Hindus from the lowest rung of the ancient caste system, known as Dalits, or “untouchables.”
The leader of the southern state of Kerala, which has a large Christian population, criticized it as “fascist” and a “clear attack on our plurality.”
Pinarayi Vijayan, the state’s chief minister, tweeted that the law would rob hundreds of thousands of people of jobs, cripple the leather industry and affect the diets of millions of people.
The rules build on legislation passed in several states, most led by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, to ban the slaughter of cattle. The laws have stoked violence by Hindu vigilante groups that have attacked Muslims and others on suspicion of smuggling cattle or possessing beef.
India’s environment minister, Harsh Vardhan, said the new rules applied only to sales at livestock markets and that cattle bought and sold directly from farms would not be affected.