The Allahabad High Court on Friday directed the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh to reissue licenses to abattoirs that were forced shut in a recent crackdown in the state citing violation of laws, and allowing them to reopen.
The verdict sends an exceptional message to the present-day India. Ordering the closure of all illegal slaughterhouses was the first move of the BJP government when it stormed to power in Uttar Pradesh with huge majority on March 19. While the ban was said to be imposed only on illegal abattoirs, the move eventually ended as a ploy conceived to ban cow meat. Even before the official move to implement the government’s decision began, the supporters of Yogi Adityanath and the Sangh Parivar cohorts had launched a clampdown on slaughterhouses and sale of meat severely affecting the livelihood of the minority community. Several associations related to the meat industry went on an indefinite strike protesting against the Sangh Parivar goondaism under the guise of cow protection. The government on the other hand didn’t renew the licenses for the abattoirs after March. The High Court pronounced the verdict while considering the petitions filed by the owners of the meat shops and those earning their livelihood through the meat industry. The court ruled that it was the responsibility of the local bodies to construct and maintain slaughterhouses in villages. A bench comprising of Justices Amreshwar Pratap Sahi and Sanjay Harkauli also directed the state government to file a reply on July 17, the next date of hearing, about the steps taken in compliance of the order.
The Yogi government decided to initiate the first move against the slaughterhouses as part of implementing his promise given in the election manifesto. The supporters of Yogi Adityanath, the mascot of hardline Hindutwa who has been campaigning for the communal agenda of the right-wing, didn’t think twice before banning the consumption of meat and meat shops. Even those transporting cattle became victims of cow vigilantes. The court ruled that the government or the organisations, didn’t have any right to interfere in the food habits and block the livelihood of the people using power, and that it was akin to challenging the Constitution. Those who believe in democracy has been warning that the move to create fissures in the society in the name of education, food choices, culture and customs, was against the Constitution and that it was a Fascist agenda to maneuver the country towards the Hindutwa ideology of one nation through one language, one culture and religion. However, with coming to power at the Centre as well as at the state levels, no voices were raised against the aggression of the Fascist lunatics. The Allahabad High Court verdict that comes amidst the chaos, therefore brings relief not only to the meat sellers in UP deprived of their livelihood but also to those apprehensive of the threats posed against the diverse culture of the country. The fiery attacks by the Sangh Parivar under the guise of cow protection is a perfect example of targeting a section of the society, isolating them as enemies and unleashing hatred against them repudiating all the laws as well as the Constitution. The Allahabad High Court has made observations directing the reopening of slaughterhouses, comprehending the core of such attacks.
The court reminded that food, food choices and providing access to food came within the limits of right to life and livelihood of Article 21 of the Constitution. It said that the various food habits that has flourished in UP was an element of the state’s secular and diverse culture. The court said that ‘any overt or covert action of the government’ should take into consideration issues such as the health, culture, personal food habits, the availability of food items at affordable prices, the convenience of availability, ensuring the contents and quality of the food stuff essential to life as well as maintaining a balance of such rights under the secular umbrella of the Constitution. It said that the primary duty of the authorities was to make food available as much as required and not to ban it. Yogi Adityanath government had earlier clarified that only the illegal abattoirs that functioned in unhealthy circumstances were closed down as part of Food Safety and Standards Act. But according to the court, imposing such a ban without permitting suitable spaces violates the rights of citizens to consume the food of their choice and at the same time disrupts the livelihood of a section of the society rendering both as a violation of the Constitution. The Allahabad High Court highlighted that those who executed the Fascist agenda by brutally beating to death Mohammad Akhlaq in Dadri and Pehlu Khan in Alwar, in the name of cow protection, follow the same path when they are in power and that it was something that rendered the Constitution invalid. The court through its verdict has upheld the conscience of a secular India.