‘Volunteers’ Apply to Track Maharashtra Beef Ban

Many applicants are affiliated with Hindutva groups and gau rakshak samitis.

Representative image. Credit: Christian Heilmann/Flickr CC BY 2.0

Representative image. Credit: Christian Heilmann/Flickr CC BY 2.0

In May this year, the Maharashtra government’s department of animal husbandry decided they needed civilian “eyes to monitor the beef ban” that was imposed in the state last year. This was said to be a voluntary, non-salaried, “honorary” position.

Since the advertisement was released, 2,388 applications have been received, Indian Express reported. All these applicants have been recommended by district deputy commissioners of animal husbandry, who “take responsibility for their conduct”. Of these applications, 2,371 have been admitted and sent to the high court-appointed committee to monitor animal welfare laws for scrutiny.

After being appointed, these officers will receive official ID cards that enables them to monitor and reports all acts of animal cruelty. However, very few of the applications mentioned any animals except cows.

The call for applications released in May had specified that applicants should have no “political affiliations”. However, on accessing the applications, Indian Express found that many applicants cleared were members of right-wing Hindutva organisations including the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal, Ram Sena, Hindu Sena, Shiv Sena, Durgavahini, Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad and the RSS. Their occupations were listed as “social work”. In addition, over 60% of the applicants called themselves “gau rakshaks” and were affiliated to gaushalas or gau rakshak samitis.

Pleas in the Supreme Court 

In May this year, the Bombay high court had upheld the constitutionality of the Maharashtra been ban, but struck down two of its provisions. The court said that people could consume beef if it was from a state where cow slaughter is legal and that possession of beef was not illegal.

Two fresh petitions were filed in the Supreme Court yesterday that questioned the Bombay high court for upholding the ban. The pleas were filed by the All India Jamiatul Quresh (of both Maharashtra and Delhi), saying that politics was being played on the issue of slaughtering cows.

They also said the petitioner organisations respected cows and calves, but members of the Qureshi community should be allowed to slaughter bulls and bullocks who have crossed the age of 16 years as they are of no use to farmers.

Earlier, the Supreme Court had issued notice to the Maharashtra government on a separate plea challenging the high court verdict which held that mere possession of beef or animals slaughtered outside the state cannot invite criminal action. This plea was filed by the Akhil Bharat Krishi Goseva Sangh.

Where is cow slaughter illegal? 

There are very few states in India where there are no restrictions on cow slaughter. Kerala, West Bengal, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim have not imposed any restrictions so far. In the rest of the country, the restrictions and the penalties imposed differ across states.

In some states, like Assam, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, cow slaughter is permissible under certain conditions or if some special permissions are obtained.

In July this year, the Himachal Pradesh high court issued orders to the Centre asking that they ban cow slaughter and beef sale in the country altogether.

In the last few months, the conversation around cow slaughter has been driven less by laws and more by self-appointed gau rakshaks who have been accused of vigilante violence in states across the country. An attack on a Dalit family in Una, Gujarat for skinning a dead cow created widespread anger in the community and led to large-scale protests.