10 things you didn't know about beef bans

Last Updated: Wed, Oct 07, 2015 17:40 hrs

Right now beef bans and cattle slaughter bans are making great news and social media is outraging over it left, right and centre. However most are ignorant of the history of the prevention of cow slaughter in India.

Here are 10 things you probably didn't know about it...

1. Idea has been around for 2000+ years: The cow is a sacred animal in India and its killing was frowned upon from the time of Gautam Buddha. According to legend, a Chola King executed his own son for the killing of a calf about 2200 years ago.

2. Many kings backed it: The Mughal Empire started by banning cow slaughter (Babar) and then it was subsequently restricted by his descendants while Aurangzeb lifted the ban. However "Last Emperor" Bahadur Shah Zafar banned it again after the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny even though he didn't have many powers.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj of the Marathas was a strict enforcer of the cow slaughter ban but even Hyder Ali of Mysore banned it in the late 18th century, while Ranjit Singh of the Sikhs did so in the early 19th century.

3. Communal riots in the British Raj: The only people unsympathetic to the cow ban were the British. Queen Victoria went on record stating that the cow ban was an affront to the British Empire and as a result there were frequent communal riots over the issue from the 18th century till the Empire left.

4. Most Freedom fighters supported it: Dayananda Saraswati of the Arya Samaj was a strong proponent of the movement and his followers spread awareness all across India. Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai and Madan Mohan Malviya were some of those influenced and promised the people of India a ban on cow slaughter if they achieved Swaraj.

5. Mahatma Gandhi was in favour: The Mahatma while promising a ban said, "I worship it (the cow) and I shall defend its worship against the whole world." He was backed in this by Jawaharlal Nehru and Rajendra Prasad, our first Prime Minister and President respectively.

6. There in Directive Principles: It is there in Directive Principles of State Policy (Article 48). It states that the State shall "...take steps for preserving and improving the breeds, and prohibiting the slaughter of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle."

7. Most States legislated on their own: The movement for cow slaughter was kept alive by stalwarts like Jayaprakash Narayan after Independence. Social reformer Vinoba Bhave (who got the Bharat Ratna and Magsaysay Award) went on hunger strike over the same.

While cattle slaughter legislation in India is complicated and varied, the following States brought in some sort of law 50 years back or more: West Bengal and Assam (1950), Gujarat (1954), Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab, Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh (1955), Tamil Nadu (1958), Madhya Pradesh (1959), Orissa (1960) and Karnataka (1964).

Jammu & Kashmir and Manipur introduced legislation before Independence and today a good 24 States currently have some sort of ban regarding cows and beef.

8. The 1966 agitation: A mob of 10,000 tried to storm Parliament in 1966 to force a cow ban all over India. The then Shankaracharya went on a fast and the house of Congress President K Kamaraj was burnt. The Home Minister resigned after the incident.

9. SC upheld the ban in 2005: While the Gujarat High Court came down on the State government over "unreasonable restrictions", the cow slaughter ban across the States was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2005 by a clear majority bench ruling of 6-1. The ruling Congress government accepted the verdict. In fact the SC also urged all the
States to frame relevant laws within six months of the ruling.

10. Illegal slaughterhouses are rampant: As with the black economy and illegal activities nobody knows the exact number, but it is estimated that there are tens of thousands of illegal slaughterhouses in India.

Post script...

If you want to eat beef, you have every right to fight for it. But to lay the blame squarely at Prime Minister Narendra Modi's feet (as it is being currently done) is ridiculous. Cow slaughter ban has received support from all across and across all ages.

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