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Delhi partially backpedals on beef ban, says it’s “ready to …

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New Delhi (AsiaNews) – The Indian government has made a partial turnaround on banning beef across the country saying that the government is “ready to review” the order.

The ban on slaughtering cattle, which was put in place on 23 May, has sparked a wave of protests among cattle breeders, minorities and state governments.

Cattle breeders have lost a major source of income. Minorities complain that the ban interferes with their food and religious practices. States are opposed to the central government meddling in state affairs.

On Thursday, Union Justice Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that “The NDA government does not intend to bring in any law that would in any manner interfere with the eating habits of any community.”

Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan added that the government was studying representations from all sections and would take remedial measures soon.

Meanwhile, state governments have begun challenging the ban on beef. The first was Kerala on 9 June, where the state assembly describe the ban as a “fascist move”. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan called it a plan to implement the “political agenda of the Sangh family” and an attempt at “dividing people through communal polarisation for political gains.”

In Meghalaya, some members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spoke out against the ban. This was followed on 12 June by a unanimous resolution in the state assembly calling on the Union government to withdraw the law “with an immediate effect”.

Business associations saw right away the ban’s disastrous effects on the sector, which is worth a trillion rupees (US$ 15.5 billion) with exports estimated at 263 billion rupees (US$ 3.6 billion). Since the ban was implemented, trade in buffalo meat has collapsed by about 90 per cent.

On 7 June, Mohammed Abdul Faheem Qureshi, president of the All India Jamiatul Quresh Action Committee, an NGO based in Hyderabad (Telangana) that works for the “the upliftment of weaker sections of society including the butchers and cattle traders,” called for the Supreme Court to intervene.

Mr Qureshi submitted a petition stating that the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Animals (Care and Maintenance of Case Property Animals) Rules is arbitrary, illegal and unconstitutional.

He contends that the ban violates his constitutional rights to practise any profession, carry on any occupation, protect his life, personal liberty, freedom of conscience, engage in a free profession, practice and propagate his religion as well as protect the interests of minorities.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court postponed the matter to 11 July. Acting on behalf of the Union government, Additional Advocate General P S Narasimha said that the rules were meant to streamline trading activities to prevent cruelty.

Minister Prasad noted that the cow is sacred in Hinduism. The constitution also directs the state “to prohibit cow slaughter”. What is more, “there is also a large section of people who revere the cow”.

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