Slaughter rules unlikely to affect business in NE

IMPHAL, 27th May: People across sections in the northeastern states are more or less unanimous in their opinion that enforcement of the cattle slaughter rules issued by the central government on Friday will have little or no impact in the region. In a bid to regulate the hitherto unregulated cattle trade, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government at the Centre issued a notification which bans sale of cattle, including cows, bulls, buffaloes, camels, heifers and calves, for slaughter through animal markets.

Speaking about the new rules, A Romenkumar, an Advocate and former Additional Director General of Police, pointed out that those opposing the ban on cattle slaughter may cite the right to food guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution. "But the same Constitution also ensures the right to life. The Supreme Court had ruled in a 2014 case that all forms of animal life are included in the expanded meaning of 'life', as enumerated under the Article 21 of the Constitution."

Referring to irregularities by abattoirs, Romenkumar said: "Clause (i) of the Police Act, 1861 says that slaughterhouses should possess a licence and a veterinarian should certify the quality of the meat... Clause (ii) says that there shall be no cruelty, inhuman torture of the animals... "During my stint as a police officer, several abattoirs and meat shops in and around Imphal city were closed, as they did not possess licence or health certificate from veterinarians."

Nimaichand Luwang, a former minister who had unsuccessfully contested the March 2016 assembly elections on a BJP ticket, said: "The ban (new rules) can never be implemented in Manipur where there are Christians, Muslims and others, who relish meat. Vaishnavite Hindus constitute only a small percentage of the population. The move will be counter-productive for the BJP."

Advocate and human rights activist Khaidem Mani asserted: "The meat ban cannot be enforced in Manipur. One state has already registered a strong protest and Manipur may follow suit." L Haokip, who has been slaughtering cattle for selling meat in the market in Churachandpur district, said: "Our forefathers were hunters and we kill cows and buffaloes for meat on all festive occasions and for day-to-day sale. The new rules are something incomprehensible."

Brajamani Sharma, a devout Vaishnavite, said: "Personally, I have no objection to meat eating by others. But cruel ceremonial killings of trussed buffaloes by dancing tribals, who pierce the helpless animals with spears, is something reprehensible and it must be stopped." All tribal markets in Manipur sell beef, venison and other kinds of meat, including that of migratory birds, every day. Even the meat of wild animals is on sale.

Similar is the scenario in other states like Mizoram, Meghalaya and Nagaland. According to the law enforcers, "there's not much we can do" towards implementing the new rules. Officials of the police and forest departments said that apart from the fact that slaughtering of animals has been a tribal tradition for generations in the region, there is only a skeleton government staff in the hill areas and police personnel have not been issued even the necessary firearms.

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