Beefing up the Law for No Beef

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in Popular Essays

By ALBERTINA ALMEIDA

 

You have to throw a stone to figure out the ripple effect. That is what Subramanian Swamy did when he said on a national television show that Goa’s beef eating tradition had to be changed. The BJP has, for some time now, made Goa a Hindutva laboratory, with its front organizations or politically connected organisations, either hosting conventions on aiming for Hindu Rashtra from 2023, or stating that India is already a Hindu Rashtra for centuries or stating that it should be culturally a Hindu Rashtra. These include RSS, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal, Durga Vahini. They were clearly looking to see exactly how the reactions would be and perhaps also exactly how they could be polarized.

 

The ruling coalition partner Goa Forward’s legislative head, Vijai Sardesai, when asked what he thought of this, said Subramanian had spoken in his individual capacity.  So said Dattaprasad Naik, as a spokesperson of BJP. Before that, in view of the looming possibility of no-beef and the same becoming an election issue at the Assembly and Panchayat elections, Chief Minister Parrikar (then India’s defence minister) had said that the individual choice would be respected but also sneaked in a caveat that he would always follow the law and by April 2017 he was already saying that he will saying nothing again about this.

 

Read More: Learning from the Beef Ban.

 

Came May 2017 and a ban on cattle slaughter is surreptitiously sought to be imposed, under the guise of these Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Market) Rules. The notification bans sale and purchase, in animal markets, of bovines for slaughter.

 

In times gone by, Goa had several slaughter houses for cattle. These slaughter houses were mostly run by minorities. The first salvo of slaughter ban was fired in 1978, when cow slaughter was banned by a legislation called The Goa Daman and Diu Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act 1978 and sale of the beef of the flesh of cow was prohibited. However as the ban was specific to cow, there was not much resistance, also perhaps as this happened barely two decades after the integration of Goa into India, as people were constantly reminded that they have to be focused on development and construction of a free Goa.

 

 

But then came the Goa Animal Preservation Act, 1995, enacted during the Congress rule in Goa. This was in the aftermath of the Ayodhya dispute when Congress was looking to playing the B team of the BJP after being on the verge of losing its majority on account of the political traction BJP was being able to gain by playing the Hindutva card.

 

Read More: Cow Politics and Slavery.

 

By this Animal Preservation Act, the slaughter of  bovines, that is bulls, bullocks, male calves, male and female buffaloes, castrated buffaloes,and buffalo calves, was sought to be regulated. Certification was now required that the cattle is fit for slaughter. By certification was meant that the cattle was uneconomic for farming or dairy purposes or that the cattle was fit for slaughter on account of suffering from disease. This law was further amended in 2003 and 2010 to give the 1995 law more teeth. The Animal Preservation Act also sought to regulate the sale of beef only with appropriate certification.

 

 

The present ban on bovine slaughter has come under the guise of Rules for livestock markets under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. These Rules set out that a person who brings cattle to the market for sale has to furnish a written declaration from the owner that the cattle has not been brought to market for sale for slaughter, and that the purchaser shall not sell the animal for slaughter.

 

 

As of now, no animal markets exist in Goa. The beef traders purchase the cattle from random individual farmers in Goa, but the stock purchased in Goa is woefully inadequate for the daily consumption.

 

Read More: Scoring Beef, Underscoring Banal Hindutva: The Limits of MTV’s Activism.

 

Only one slaughter house is prescribed as specified place for the purposes of slaughter in Goa. It is the slaughter house of the Goa Meat Complex. The traders on purchasing the animals for slaughter, then transport the cattle across the Karnataka border to the Goa Meat Complex for slaughter.  Shortly after the Rules were notified in the Gazette by the Central Government, the beef traders faced the first rumblings of the notification in the form of being stopped at the Karnataka borders where the police at that end feared that they would face the rage of the gaurakshaks for not enforcing the Livestock Markets Rules if they let them pass. It took a verbal intervention by the Chief Minister to have the cattle pass the police exit point so they could then make their way to the vehicle entry toll booth.

 

 

As of now therefore the beef traders continue to purchase bovines from the animal markets across the border for slaughter. But clearly the Damocles sword of penalties for violation of Livestock Rules continues to hang over them. If no cattle was available for slaughter, by now the stock of cattle already admitted in the Goa Meat Complex would have got exhausted.

 

 

With the legislature party President of the ruling coalition partner, Goa Forward,  making categoric statements that they will not allow beef ban in Goa, and off the cuff statements being made at various levels of governance and politics, the State is poised for some more play of words to diffuse the imminent beef ban, before the Government will HAVE to come completely clear in a writ petition filed by the Quraishi’s  Meat Traders Association of Goa, primarily on the plank of posing a threat to their right to carry on a trade or occupation of their choice without being vulnerable to the consequences of enforcement of the Livestock Rules.

 

This is, of course, apart from the serious challenge posed by a slaughter ban to the fundamental right of the citizens to their food choices and to access to nutritious food, within the parameters of the Constitution, to the rights of people dependent on cattle slaughter for their livelihood, which includes ancillary trades like the soap factories, the fertilizer production units, the toothpaste manufacturing plants, that utilize the non-beef products of slaughter. Not to speak of the burden on the already being crushed farmers, who have to tend cattle that are unproductive and will not be able to sell those cattle for cattle that they can productively use.

 

(A shorter version was first published in O Heraldo, dt: 15 June, 2016)

Cow Politics and Slavery

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in Popular Essays

By DALE LUIS MENEZES

 

The recent comments by members of the Sangh Parivar on the complete ban on the consumption of beef in Goa have ignited a controversy. The comments, casteist as they are, have shifted the attention of the Goan people away from pressing issues like the future of casinos, the Mopa airport, the crises in the mining sector, environmental pollution, and everyday governance. That such comments divert our attention elsewhere is unfortunate; but every time such comments are made we should remind ourselves what exactly lies at the heart of such hate politics.

 

The online Ambedkarite portal, Round Table India, has been publishing articles critically analyzing the economics and politics of ‘beef ban’, especially since the ban enforced by Maharashtra from 2015. It is with the help of these and some other news reports that I wish to make the case that, through ‘beef bans’ and cow politics, the poor and minoritized population is being pushed further into the depths of poverty and caste, eventually making them live in conditions akin to slavery.

 

Following the ban in Maharashtra by the Devendra Fadnavis-led government, Arvind Kumar argued that the move had all the makings of a “social conspiracy” against the dalit-bahujans in India, especially in Maharashtra. “I see the beginnings,” he says, “of a reversal of ‘social change’”. Kumar argues that if non-productive cattle – whether used for dairy products or as draught animals – are not slaughtered then they will have to be disposed by someone after they die. Who will do this dirty work? He says that it is those who come from the ‘untouchable’ castes who will either be forced or lured into occupations such as disposing and skinning dead cattle and further “get trapped in the evil practice of untouchability”.

 

Kumar seems to have rightly perceived the diabolic game plan behind the ban on cow slaughter in Maharastra as the NGO that worked to make the ban a reality has similar plans. In an interview to Scroll.in, Rajendra Joshi, a trustee of the Viniyog Parivar Trust, said, “Cattle will now die their natural deaths scattered across the state, and it will help revive the traditional vocations of chamars and mochis [tanners and cobblers] across the state”. In making such a statement, Joshi admits that people are moving away from occupations such as tanning and hence such occupations need to be “revive[d]”. Obviously, people would not volunteer to perform such demeaning traditional occupations, hence the coercion of the state is seen as so necessary.

 

This emphasis on bringing back the ‘traditional’ precisely confirms what Kumar had suspected all along: undo social mobility and reorder labor relations. The idea ultimately is to return to a casteist way of life and production relations that perpetuates practices of untouchability. Talking in terms of untouchability does not mean that the issue is solely about religion, rituals, or belief; it is also fundamentally an economic issue as those who provide labor in a caste society – including those who work in agriculture and clear/skin dead cattle – come from the lower strata of society.

 

Studies have shown that if non-productive cattle are not culled – that is livestock rearing is not done in a scientific and economically rational manner – then the population of cattle begins to shrink. In other words, slaughter is essential if the agricultural and dairy production is to be maintained at an economically viable level. Farmers, being unable to dispose of such cattle, have to bear the burden of sustaining non-productive animals. Selling non-productive cattle (whether cows or bulls) for slaughter (with the resultant production of food, leather, and other important goods) sustains an agrarian economy dependent on bovine animals. The butcher is an integral part of this economy. In fact we can observe that a ban on cow slaughter economically burdens farmers, dairy farmers, butchers, and meat traders. However, the only ones who are laughing all the way to the bank are the beef exporters – many of them upper caste Hindus – who seem to be increasing the quantum of exports despite this hate politics.

 

Seen from the perspective of the ill-effects that a ‘beef ban’ and anti-cow slaughter laws have on the society and the economy, it is imperative that secular forces and those keen to maintain Goan traditions call for nothing less than a complete revocation of these ‘cow protection’ laws, including the one that the MGP government brought into force in Goa in the 1970s. It is also a litmus test to the votaries of secularism and Goemkarponn if they will push for the revocation or change of laws antithetical to the lives and livelihoods of Goans.

 

In Goa too, one can observe that it has become increasingly difficult for people to maintain cattle. It is simply not economically viable, and over a period of time so many people have stopped rearing cattle. Add to this, one sees a large number of cows scavenging from dustbins and other areas. The oppressive ‘cow protection’ laws – circumscribed by a upper caste Hindu morality – has made it difficult for people to maintain cows and the bovine population to sustain itself.

 

Thus, the issue is not simply about people being unable to eat beef (that is, without being lynched or killed for it). While it is true that ‘beef bans’ pose a threat to a loosely defined ethos of ‘secularism’, the issue is much deeper in which the laboring poor are trapped within the oppressive structures of caste, poverty, and tradition. It is a form of slavery that is perpetuated by the law and a casteist morality which is undoing the social mobility achieved through the struggles of various groups. While forcing labor relations based on caste hierarchies, such ‘beef bans’ also deny ‘minorities’ like Christians and Muslims (of all castes and classes) the choice of food and cultural practices ostensibly because it offends upper caste Hindu sensibilities.

 

(First published in O Heraldo, dt: 26 April, 2017)

Fight the Lie to the Bull in the Name of Cultural Heritage!

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Popular Essays

By ALBERTINA ALMEIDA

The Chief Minister’s announced plan to restore bull fights in the Goan arena again, is mired in strategic fascist politics, given that restored is spoken of in the name of cultural heritage. Is this talk of restoration of bullfights going to be the proverbial foot through a door that will finally open up to sanction for all kinds of practices in the name of cultural heritage?

What constitutes cultural heritage? Must everything that constitutes cultural heritage be retained or restored? Sati was supposedly a cultural heritage, and when it was banned many caste-hindus protested about the colonial insensitivity. How would restoration of bullfights as a cultural heritage be different from the restoration of sati? According to some, the latter is also part of our culture, as a stone in the Goa Government museum bears testimony.

There is a polarisation of people on the issue of bullfights between the defenders of human rights and the defenders of animal rights, which seems to provide an opportunity for undemocratic totalitarian politics to hold the day. There is a “we-say-it-is-cultural-heritage- therefore-it must-be-retained-no matter-what-be-the-consequences” tone.

While there is a certain power in organising the bull-fights, there also emerged another kind of powerlessness because the bullfights could no longer be organised and subaltern sections that were involved in the bullfight related activities were being targetted. The power comes from a certain macho ability to organise the bullfights by raising the bulls and preparing and provoking them into a fight. And the powerlessness as in operation today comes from the selective criminalisation of practices of certain sections, of certain communities.

Let me relate my own experience of witnessing bull-fights. They were organised right in front of my ancestral house at Taleigao, on Harvest feast day in August each year at the Church Square. As a child, I was a regular attendee. There were crowds of people from all over Goa, to witness the spectacle. Often the bulls would lock themselves into a fight but there were also occasions when the bulls refused to lock themselves into the fight and simply ran away from the arena. This would cause a near stampede, because everyone was afraid, and naturally so, of being gored by the horns of the bull. There were also those occasions when, while the bulls were locking horns, some men in the crowd would take advantage of the situation and sexually harass women attendees, which I have also also been a victim of. Although this experience kept me from going for bull-fights again, I cannot forget how I enjoyed the spectacle of bull-fights along with relatives and Taleigao friends from the neighbourhood.

This naïve indulgence in adrenaline thrills of childhood is today a subject of a deeper anguish and guilt. I am re-questioning it because the whole idea of entertainment at bull-fights was built around bulls locking horns thereby putting a premium to fights, completely ignoring the cruelty to the bulls.

But then, when the bullfights were banned, the Government did nothing to rehabilitate the people from subaltern sections of society who were dependent on it. Even if a ban were to be inevitable, the Government had to demonstrate its humanitarian responsibilities to rehabilitate affected small entrepreneurs. Human rights invariably are made to take a back seat in the wake of bans.

Also, is restoration of bullfights a seeming way of addressing or pretending to address deep-seated prejudices that are increasingly surfacing ? We have a multifaceted and diverse cultural heritage. We continue to be robbed of much of its positive character, now in the name of Hindu Rashtra politics. So, can such isolated governance acts which polarise on human rights v animal rights lines, really bring back our cultural heritage? Can it at all restore our faith, when we see day in and day out the fascist tendencies running rampage to give a certain finality to dominant society practices as superior cultural heritage? How else does one explain the utter callousness following the killing of a Muslim on the ground that he ate beef? Or wringing out the survival of Catholics and Muslims in the business of beef?
Besides, the contextually located open spaces where bull-fights used to be held are vanishing. So, is this announcement about bullfights a red herring about choices that cannot be really exercised anymore? Surely they will not change the increasing encroachment, if we may call it that, on our spaces, on our positive cultural heritage, by rightwing Hindutva fundamentalist organisations?
Another lurking question is: why have only certain practices such as bull-fights been selectively criminalised? Is it about criminalising selective masculinities? While ignoring State masculinities such as those of banning cultural expressions in the name of not “hurting people’s sentiments”, or those that impose a culture of what to eat and not to eat at the cost of death? Or those that subtly impose a culture of what to eat with massive advertisements thereby pushing local products and the survival of people on those products out of the market?
Don’t make me choose between preserving heritage and hurting animals. We need a governance that privileges survival of ALL without discrimination.

(First published in O Heraldo, dt: 8 September, 2015)