Lawyers in predominantly Muslim Jammu & Kashmir say they will petition the state’s High Court on Wednesday to seek a reversal of a statewide beef ban that has unleashed protests.
A ruling by the court last week resulted in the imposition of the ban. In response to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) case filed by advocate Parmikosh Seth, a Hindu, the High Court on Sept. 9 ruled in favor of invoking an 83-year-old law that prohibits the slaughter of cows and sales of beef in the state.
“Muslims have the right to consume beef, similarly as they have the right to worship,” Abdul Qayoom, president of the local bar, which will petition the court, told BenarNews.
“The state authorities should respect the religious sentiments of the majority people and lift the ban.”
Beef-eating Muslims have taken to the streets since the court imposed the ban. Jammu & Kashmir is the only one of India’s 29 states that has a Muslim majority.
Last Friday, several people were injured in clashes with security forces during anti-ban protests in south Kashmir.
In some places, protestors slaughtered cows in the open, in defiance of the ban. The following day, people across the Kashmir Valley observed a shut-down as part of ongoing protests.
“The ban is simply unjustified and intolerable as it is a direct interference in our religious affairs,” Mushtaq Ahmad Malik, a trader from Kashmir’s Pulwama district, told BenarNews.
Maulana Guffran Ahmad, the imam of a mosque in Bandipora district, echoed the trader’s sentiments.
“The authorities should realize the consequences of interfering in religious matters and revoke the ban right away,” Ahmad told BenarNews.
Still doing business
Butchers in the state seem unfazed by the ban and continue to sell beef.
“For many years, we have been earning a living by selling beef. Our children would be forced to starve if we stop selling the meat,” said Ghulam Nabi Chopan, a vendor in Baramulla district.
“The Eid-ul-Adha festival is around the corner [on Sept. 25] and the government should immediately revoke the ban to facilitate sales of beef on the occasion,” he told BenarNews.
As required by their religion, Muslims around the world sacrifice animals – largely cows – for that Islamic holiday.
On the political front, the main opposition National Conference party is demanding that the government pass an executive order immediately to permit the slaughter of cattle ahead of Eid-ul-Adha, NDTV reported.
But the state’s ruling coalition appears divided over the issue. The ruling bloc is led by the predominantly Muslim Peoples Democratic Party and the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Cows revered in India
For Hindus, who form the majority in the rest of India, the cow is a sacred animal. They refer to her as ‘goamata’, or cow mother, because she produces milk.
Twenty-four Indian states have now prohibited the slaughter of cows and sales of beef.
However, such local bans have angered Muslims and Christians, as well as lower-caste Hindus who rely on the relatively cheaper meat for their protein.
The latest states to ban beef are Maharashtra and Gujarat, where the BJP leads the state governments. In fact, popular demand to ban beef has gained momentum since Prime MinisterNarendra Modi, of the BJP, came to power last year.
Cow slaughter act
In Jammu & Kashmir, the act that bans the killing and sale of bovine animals is known as the Ranbir Penal Code and written into the state’s constitution. The code was instituted in 1932, during the pre-Partition era in the Indian Sub-Continent, when the then princely region was governed by Hindu Dogra rulers, according to The Indian Express.
The ban was strictly enforced during the Dogra era, but there has been no enforcement it in Kashmir since Partition in 1947, the paper said.
Under the act, a person found slaughtering a bovine animal shall be punished with up to 10 years in prison and will be liable to a fine as well.