Following the footsteps of north Indian states, going by the epithet of cow belt, the south Indian state of Karnataka also has introduced a bill banning cow slaughter. The earlier bill of 2010 which the then BJP government had passed got lapsed failing to get the governor's nod. And the Sidharamaiah-led Congress government repealed that very bill iln 2013. Now, ten years thence, chief minister Yediyuappa and his team have got through the Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Bill (2020), with more stringent provisions and stronger punishments than its aborted predecessor. The manner of passing this bill falls quite in line with the model the BJP has been adopting all over the country in making anti-people laws driven by narrow interests: this bill also came through without any debate in the legislative assembly and with no opportunity for legislators to even read it once. And the sangh parivar made a celebration of the bill's passage by making 'jai' calls in the assembly and even conducting a cow worship in front of the house. When one realises that the only man the Karnataka government had consulted on this is UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath, known for his history of passing draconian laws and taking action against the people, the motive behind Karnataka's action becomes unmistakably clear.
Even before the upper house of the assembly passed the bill and it became law, the items of beef disappeared from the menu of eateries of Karnataka. All the people regardless of vegetarian or non-vegetarian, except the communally jaundiced sections, are concerned and unsettled about the sorry state of affairs where the government, through banning the people's right to food of their choice, virtually decides what they should eat. As a matter of fact, the new bill will hit harder the cattle farmers themselves than meat lovers - a fact borne out by a study related to the cattle census of 2019. In Karnataka, which houses the major buffalo market of south India, the new law will result in the loss of livelihood of hundreds of people.
When the new law comes into force, slaughtering animals like cow, bull, calf, buffalo and bison attract punishment of imprisonment of three to seven year and fine upto Rs five lakhs; a repetition of the offence will lead to a fine of Rs 10 lakhs too. Transporting animals within the state or outside and transferring them for slaughter also constitute punishable offence under the law. Although the bill provides that police officials of the rank of Sub-Inspector or above can make inspections about slaughter, what will happen on the ground has already become clear from past experience in states like UP, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh: sangh parivar goons, self-styled as cow-protectors barge into the homes and cow-sheds under suspicion or which belong to their rivals, and lynch their owners alleging them to be cow smugglers. Instances are galore of such gory incidents ever since 2014 in Modi's India. The Allahabad High Court itself had openly stated in October this year that the anti-cow slaughter bill is one that is being widely misused. The court pointed out that innocents are booked on allegation of possessing beef and farmers frightened of police and mobs are scared to send their cows to other states.
It has been clear for long that behind the agenda of cow protection is the marked hatred towards minorities like Muslims and towards Dalits, rather than any devotion to the goddess of cow. In Karnataka, where every sector including education is communalised, for some years the sangh parivar has been promoting a formula to inflame anti-Muslim sentiments and create communal riots, also with an aim of overcoming the internal difference within the BJP and of proving its strength. At a time when the BJP members themselves came forward against chief minister Yediyurappa with public criticisms, the anti-cow slaughter bill aims to silence them too for the time being.
It is also to be noted that the BJP is letting loose such an ominous law with an eye on not only Karnataka, but Kerala too. For, the sangh parivar has long been in an attempt to create communal rift at Kerala's border with Karnataka and to make capital out of it towards a seat in the assembly. The only way out of such lurking dangers before the people is constant vigil and resistance against anti-people policies and the bid to divide the people.