Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the order is an “attempt to destroy India’s secular structure” that will “affect the poor the most”.
Kannur, Kerala: From pointed statements to widespread ‘beef fests’, Kerala responded sharply to the BJP government’s latest ‘Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017’ which would effectively make it hard to slaughter, and consume, livestock across India. The notification defines cattle as “a bovine animal including bulls, cows, buffalos, steers, heifers and calves and includes camels.”
In a statement, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the new notification, issued on May 23 by the Ministry of Environment, is an “attempt to destroy the secular structure” of the country.
In the strongly-worded statement, Vijayan said the Centre’s actions hurt the concept of “pluralism”, which he said is “the essence of our democracy”.
“[The] Sangh parivar has so far, at different parts of the country, unleashed violence in the name of cow. The [new] ban is also applied to bulls, buffalos and heifers.”
He said the new rules will negatively affect millions across the country. “Tens of millions of people in the country slaughter these animals for food. It’s not that people of any specific religious group consume meat,” Vijayan said, adding that “by banning these [food habits], the central government has touched the people’s right to eat”.
Vijayan also said the order is an “attack on the poor” and demanded a nation-wide protest against the “awful actions” of the Centre.
“It should be understood that meat is important nourishing food for poor and ordinary people in India. Therefore this is an attack against the poor. There must be nation-wide protest against such awful actions. If today’s ban is against [slaughtering] livestock, tomorrow it may be against fish consumption,” he said.
The chief minister said the move will particularly affect leather production and the lakhs of workers dependent on the industry. Talking about the “shortage of raw materials” for the leather industry, which he said employs more than “25 lakhs people”, Vijayan said Dalits and the poor will be most affected by the Centre’s latest move.
Pointing out the “widespread violence against cattle traders”, Vijayan said it said a lot that the BJP government banned cattle slaughter instead of stopping such attacks. “This shows who controls the government,” he said.
Ramesh Chennithala, opposition leader in the Kerala legislative assembly, said the Centre’s move is an a violation of human rights.
“This is the latest example of the efforts of Modi government that from the very beginning has been making fascist moves to violate the constitutional rights of the citizens,” Chennithala was reported by Malayalam media as saying.
He called for collective resistance to defend the food rights of citizens. “Every citizen has the right to decide what to eat,” the Congress leader said.
Vijayan and Chennithala have also said that they will also send separate letters to the Centre to officially convey their disapproval of the Centre’s notification.
Kerala media also reported that the state government will convey to the Centre the “practical difficulty” in implementing the controversial order.
Several ministers in the Kerala cabinet also openly criticised the new rules.
V.S. Sunil Kumar, minister of agriculture, termed the new rule as an attack on the citizens’ food rights, adding that his government will not accept it. He also said the Centre is implementing the agenda of the RSS, adding that his government will act after studying its legal aspects.
Echoing his colleague, K.T. Jaleel, minister for local administration, told the media that the state government will not accept the Centre’s rule. He asked how the Centre’s rule can be implemented in the country, since “different states have different food habits”. “The government itself provokes the people to break the law,” the minister added.
Thomas Isaac, the finance minister, accused the central government of attempting to create tensions among the people. V.S. Achuthanandan, the state’s former chief minister and a veteran communist leader, termed the order as the Centre’s call for a “war on people”.
A.K. Antony, another former chief minister and a Congress leader, termed the order “illegal” and “unconstitutional”, saying that it should be “thrown to the dustbin”. “RSS is copying the colonial agenda of ‘divide and rule’,” the former defence minister added.
Many groups, including the CPI(M), the Congress and their youth and student organisations, held ‘beef fests’ at various district headquarters and college campuses across the state on Saturday.
However, the Kerala unit of BJP has welcomed the Centre’s notification. K. Surendran, the party’s general secretary in the state, said “nearly thousand of illegal slaughter houses” that function in the state should be shut down. “They [‘illegal’ slaughterhouses] create serious health and environmental problems,” Surendran said in a statement. Vellapally Natesan, general secretary of the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam, a BJP ally in the state, also welcomed the Centre’s new order.