It is all but an open secret that beef was once a delicacy of the Hindus. But, the advocates of beef ban try to turn a blind eye to this historical data. Even the scriptures hold no value for them when it comes to references to beef eating in ancient India. The primary reason for this ban is the BJP-led government’s commitment to the Hindutva agenda. Although Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed to had led the BJP to a landmark victory in the last Lok Sabha elections, activities such as beef ban and Ghar Wapsi are something that project an altogether different picture. The propagators of the ban firstly took note of the country’s majority Hindu population and secondly the ample use of dairy products by its population. They also have a Supreme Court verdict on their side. In its 2005 order, the apex court upheld the constitutional validity of anti-cow slaughter laws enacted by different state governments. There is another reason till a few years ago for beef ban that farmers need the bulls to plough their fields. But that logic almost holds no water with the use of modern technology such as tractors in agriculture. Use of bulls in the field has become a history several decades ago in some agriculturally-advanced states like Punjab.
Well before the much-publicized ban imposed by BJP-Shiv Sena government in Maharashtra recently, nearly 24 states already have various regulations prohibiting either the slaughter or sale of cows. There are various laws in transport of the animal. But none of these laws seem to be adhered to. Illegal cattle smuggling has been a multi-million trade all across the country. The trade has a large volume in the states bordering Bangladesh, which is a major market for beef smuggled out of India. Although the BSF manages to catch a few of them, the seizures are just a tip of the iceberg.
Despite all the logic and laws, the beef ban has definitely sent a wrong message to the North-east, if not the entire country. The region has a substantial population of Christians and those practising indigenous beliefs who have beef on their regular diet. Although it is for the state government to take the final call on such ban, pro-Hindu groups in these states especially in Assam are likely to begin a campaign in favour of the ban sooner or later. There is already apprehension about such campaigns in the Christian-dominated hilly states of the region. Such feelings might lead to bad blood and conflicts among different religious groups. It is not sure if beef eating is healthy of not but it is certain that the ban is ‘unhealthy’.
(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on April 4, 2015)