Not Hindutva politics, the real force behind Centre's new cattle sale law is this woman animal activist

Opposition parties have accused the BJP government of pushing its agenda of beef ban via a new rule on sale of cattle for slaughter

The Narendra Modi government has recently banned the sale of cattles for slaughter at market places. Centre’s move triggered a new controversy with states like Kerala, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka protesting the decision citing two key reasons — fundamental right of citizens to choose their food and, second, the impact on meat trade/large workforce. The Centre in its defence has referred to a Supreme Court order based on a petition filed by Gauri Maulekhi, an animal rights activist, seeking regulation of animal markets.

In an interview with Indian Express, Maulekhi explained why Centre’s move is not to control the eating habits of people. Maulekhi, who was one of the main petitioners in Supreme Court, seeking a ban on jallikattu, said that the rules have been misunderstood. She said, ” “It is not at all about controlling people’s eating habits — nowhere does the new rule say one cannot buy cattle for slaughter. The only restriction it imposes is that cattle for slaughter cannot be bought from ‘agricultural markets’.”

Asserting that cruelty was being meted out to animals which were being illegally transported across the Indian border, she said that one can always buy these directly from the farm. There is no restriction on that.

Notedly, Maulekhi has been associated with Maneka Gandhi’s People For Animals (PFA) since its inception in 1994. Of the 45 cases that she has filed across teh country, Maulekhi’s first petition was in Uttarakhand High Court against the practice of animal sacrifice. It was Maulekhi who sought Supreme Court’s intervention in the illegal smuggling of cattle from India to Nepal, where they are sacrificed as part of a religious ritual.

“Since 2009, I have been documenting every cattle market in UP, Uttarakhand, Kerala and West Bengal…(I observed) these markets were not serving farmers — there were hardly any milch cattle being traded legitimately. What was happening was wholesale trading of cattle for smuggling, ” she said.