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No beef within 5 kms of temples: Assam’s new cow protection bill

Neighbouring Meghalaya worried about impact on inter-state transport of cattle

Sabrangindia 13 Jul 2021

Assam CattleImage Courtesy:indiatvnews.com

On July 12, the Assam government introduced the Assam Cattle Preservation Bill 2021 to bring in more stringent measures to check the slaughter of cattle in the state. These include greater scrutiny of the process to obtain a “fit for slaughter” certificate by a Veterinary Officer, stricter rules regarding transport of cattle, especially across state lines, and restrictions on the sale and purchase of beef in area inhabited by Hindus and other non-beef eating communities.

After tabling the Bill, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma tweeted, “Cattle are revered in our society from time immemorial. Respecting our deep-rooted belief system & agricultural necessity, we've tabled Assam Cattle Preservation Bill, 2021 in Assembly to regulate slaughter, consumption & transportation of cattle.”

The introduction of the bill signals the Sarma administration’s commitment to the more traditional agenda of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) pertaining to religion and culture, that always lurks underneath the surface of the broader “development” pitch made to attract votes.

Assam’s previous cattle preservation laws

It is noteworthy that Assam already has existing cow protection laws. The Assam Cattle Preservation Act, 1951 (Later amended to Assam Cattle Preservation (Amendment) Act, 1962) lays down provisions for bulls, bullocks, cows, calves, male and female buffaloes, and buffalo calves. According to the provisions of this law:

  • “Fit for Slaughter Certificate” is needed from Veterinary Officer till then no person can slaughter the cattle. (Sec 5(1))
  • Certificate will be issued when the cattle-(Sec 5(2))
  • over fourteen years of age; or
  • become permanently incapacitated from work or breeding due to injury, deformity or any incurable disease.
  • Prohibition of slaughter of cattle in places not prescribed for the purpose as no cattle in respect of which a certificate has been issued under section 5 shall be slaughtered in any place other than a place prescribed in this behalf. (Sec 6)
  • Power to enter and inspect premises (Sec 7) (a) For the purpose of enforcing the provisions of this Act, the veterinary officer or any person authorized by the veterinary officer in writing in this behalf, shall have power to enter and inspect any premises within the local limits of his jurisdiction where he has reason to believe that an offence under this Act has been or is likely to be committed.
  • Penalty- Imprisonment up to maximum of 6 months or fine which may extend up toRs 1,000 or (Sec 8)
  • It states that it is a cognizable (Sec 9)
  • It protects the persons acting in good faith (Sec 12)

What does the new Bill propose?

Now let us take a closer look at the provisions of the Bill. The new bill’s key proposals can be summarised as follows:

  1. Obtaining “fit for slaughter certificate” from a Veterinary Officer
  • Such a certificate cannot be given for cows. It also protects heifer or calves under the age of 14 years. Other types of cattle can be slaughtered only if they are over 14 years of age, or have become permanently incapacitated from work, breeding, accidental injury or deformity.
  • The Veterinary Officer is required to maintain records of reason for refusal to grant permission for slaughter for future reference and inspection by a “prescribes authority” appointed by the state government.
  • This prescribed authority has been granted wide powers under section 5 of this Bill to “at any time for the purpose of satisfying itself as to the legality or propriety of such certificate or order for refusal or such certificate issued by a Veterinary Officer under this section, call for examination of the record of any case, and may pass orders thereon as it deems fit.”
  • Cattle for which a certificate has been granted can only be slaughtered at a licensed slaughter house recognised under a Central or State Act.
  • The state government can exempt certain places of worship or certain occasions for slaughter of cattle (other than cow, heifer or calves) for religious purposes.
  1. Transportation of cattle
  • A valid permit is required to transfer cattle within Assam as well as across state lines.
  • Transportation of cattle from outside the state or within the state to a place within the state where cattle slaughter is punishable under the Act is prohibited.
  • Cattle transportation must be carried in accordance with provisions of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.
  • Exceptions are made for transporting cattle for grazing, agriculture, animal husbandry purposes or sale in an animal market.
  • A permit has to be obtained for transport of cattle for agricultural or animal husbandry purposes
  • A record of all permit issued and reasons for rejection will be maintained for future reference and inspection by the state government or any officer appointed by it.
  • A person will be deemed to be transporting cattle for the purpose of slaughter unless contrary is proved to the satisfaction of the concerned authority or officer, by the person who has to show that he has obtained the permit for transportation for agricultural or animal husbandry purposes.
  • In case of violation of these provisions, the transporter can be detained and his vehicle seized.
  1. Purchase and sale of beef
  • Purchase or sale of beef is prohibited in areas predominantly inhabited by Hindu, Jian, Sikh or other non-beef eating communities.
  • Purchase or sale of beef is prohibited within a 5 km radius of a temple, satra or religious institutions belonging to Hindu religion or any other institution or area as may be prescribed by the competent authority.
  1. Punishment for violation of provisions

No person accused of an offense punishable under this Act, if in custody, can be released on bail or on his own bond, unless the Public Prosecutor has been given an opportunity of being heard on the application for such release.
Those found guilty can be incarcerated for 3- 8 years, and also fined between Rs 3 lakhs to Rs 5 lakhs.
Repeat offenders can expect to be faced with double the penalty.

Problematic elements in the new Bill

This Bill has certain provisions that can be misused to harass people, particularly those hailing from beef-eating communities.

For example, if a person from a beef-eating community lives in an area inhabited predominantly by non-beef eating communities, he will either have to give up beef consumption or ensure sale and purchase are carried out in an area outside the neighbourhood. Bringing home purchased meat could also be difficult given how it will be difficult to prove where it was purchased. A virtual target could be placed on his back, only because of what he eats as neighbours could feel empowered to surveil and complain against such people. Sometimes, such complaints can be made out of sheer vendetta or for gentrification purposes.

Similarly, if a new temple or satra is built in any area, automatically a 5 km radius around it becomes a no-beef zone, thus causing inconvenience to beef-eating residents of the area. This can once again be used as a strategy to push beef-eating communities into ghettos and further marginalise them. This could also be a shot in the arm for cow-vigilantes and lead to communal violence and mob lynching in the name of cow-protection.

Placing the burden of proof that cattle are being transported for agriculture or animal husbandry on the transporter of the cattle also makes them vulnerable to surveillance or even attacks by cow-protection groups.

The Bill also gives wide powers to the police to enter and inspect premises where they suspect any offense under the Act is being committed. This can be used as an intimidation tactic against minorities. Moreover, corrupt officials can easily turn this into an extortion racket.

Imprisonment for 3-8 years appears harsh for such a crime, and a fine of Rs 3-5 lakhs is rather steep. If we take a look at victims of mob-lynching in the name of the cow, most of them were dairy farmers. How can such people be expected to pay such large amounts as fines? Or is this yet another ploy for mass incarceration of such dairy farmers who traditionally hail from certain communities?

Finally, Assam shares its border with Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland, states where beef is consumed. If cattle transporters passing through Assam are under constant scrutiny, this could affect beef supply in these neighbouring states and harassment for their residents. 

The entire new Bill may be read here: 

Related:

Cow Slaughter Prevention Laws in India
SC slams Lynch Mobs, issues directions to govt to check ‘mobocracy’

No beef within 5 kms of temples: Assam’s new cow protection bill

Neighbouring Meghalaya worried about impact on inter-state transport of cattle

Assam CattleImage Courtesy:indiatvnews.com

On July 12, the Assam government introduced the Assam Cattle Preservation Bill 2021 to bring in more stringent measures to check the slaughter of cattle in the state. These include greater scrutiny of the process to obtain a “fit for slaughter” certificate by a Veterinary Officer, stricter rules regarding transport of cattle, especially across state lines, and restrictions on the sale and purchase of beef in area inhabited by Hindus and other non-beef eating communities.

After tabling the Bill, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma tweeted, “Cattle are revered in our society from time immemorial. Respecting our deep-rooted belief system & agricultural necessity, we've tabled Assam Cattle Preservation Bill, 2021 in Assembly to regulate slaughter, consumption & transportation of cattle.”

The introduction of the bill signals the Sarma administration’s commitment to the more traditional agenda of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) pertaining to religion and culture, that always lurks underneath the surface of the broader “development” pitch made to attract votes.

Assam’s previous cattle preservation laws

It is noteworthy that Assam already has existing cow protection laws. The Assam Cattle Preservation Act, 1951 (Later amended to Assam Cattle Preservation (Amendment) Act, 1962) lays down provisions for bulls, bullocks, cows, calves, male and female buffaloes, and buffalo calves. According to the provisions of this law:

  • “Fit for Slaughter Certificate” is needed from Veterinary Officer till then no person can slaughter the cattle. (Sec 5(1))
  • Certificate will be issued when the cattle-(Sec 5(2))
  • over fourteen years of age; or
  • become permanently incapacitated from work or breeding due to injury, deformity or any incurable disease.
  • Prohibition of slaughter of cattle in places not prescribed for the purpose as no cattle in respect of which a certificate has been issued under section 5 shall be slaughtered in any place other than a place prescribed in this behalf. (Sec 6)
  • Power to enter and inspect premises (Sec 7) (a) For the purpose of enforcing the provisions of this Act, the veterinary officer or any person authorized by the veterinary officer in writing in this behalf, shall have power to enter and inspect any premises within the local limits of his jurisdiction where he has reason to believe that an offence under this Act has been or is likely to be committed.
  • Penalty- Imprisonment up to maximum of 6 months or fine which may extend up toRs 1,000 or (Sec 8)
  • It states that it is a cognizable (Sec 9)
  • It protects the persons acting in good faith (Sec 12)

What does the new Bill propose?

Now let us take a closer look at the provisions of the Bill. The new bill’s key proposals can be summarised as follows:

  1. Obtaining “fit for slaughter certificate” from a Veterinary Officer
  • Such a certificate cannot be given for cows. It also protects heifer or calves under the age of 14 years. Other types of cattle can be slaughtered only if they are over 14 years of age, or have become permanently incapacitated from work, breeding, accidental injury or deformity.
  • The Veterinary Officer is required to maintain records of reason for refusal to grant permission for slaughter for future reference and inspection by a “prescribes authority” appointed by the state government.
  • This prescribed authority has been granted wide powers under section 5 of this Bill to “at any time for the purpose of satisfying itself as to the legality or propriety of such certificate or order for refusal or such certificate issued by a Veterinary Officer under this section, call for examination of the record of any case, and may pass orders thereon as it deems fit.”
  • Cattle for which a certificate has been granted can only be slaughtered at a licensed slaughter house recognised under a Central or State Act.
  • The state government can exempt certain places of worship or certain occasions for slaughter of cattle (other than cow, heifer or calves) for religious purposes.
  1. Transportation of cattle
  • A valid permit is required to transfer cattle within Assam as well as across state lines.
  • Transportation of cattle from outside the state or within the state to a place within the state where cattle slaughter is punishable under the Act is prohibited.
  • Cattle transportation must be carried in accordance with provisions of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.
  • Exceptions are made for transporting cattle for grazing, agriculture, animal husbandry purposes or sale in an animal market.
  • A permit has to be obtained for transport of cattle for agricultural or animal husbandry purposes
  • A record of all permit issued and reasons for rejection will be maintained for future reference and inspection by the state government or any officer appointed by it.
  • A person will be deemed to be transporting cattle for the purpose of slaughter unless contrary is proved to the satisfaction of the concerned authority or officer, by the person who has to show that he has obtained the permit for transportation for agricultural or animal husbandry purposes.
  • In case of violation of these provisions, the transporter can be detained and his vehicle seized.
  1. Purchase and sale of beef
  • Purchase or sale of beef is prohibited in areas predominantly inhabited by Hindu, Jian, Sikh or other non-beef eating communities.
  • Purchase or sale of beef is prohibited within a 5 km radius of a temple, satra or religious institutions belonging to Hindu religion or any other institution or area as may be prescribed by the competent authority.
  1. Punishment for violation of provisions

No person accused of an offense punishable under this Act, if in custody, can be released on bail or on his own bond, unless the Public Prosecutor has been given an opportunity of being heard on the application for such release.
Those found guilty can be incarcerated for 3- 8 years, and also fined between Rs 3 lakhs to Rs 5 lakhs.
Repeat offenders can expect to be faced with double the penalty.

Problematic elements in the new Bill

This Bill has certain provisions that can be misused to harass people, particularly those hailing from beef-eating communities.

For example, if a person from a beef-eating community lives in an area inhabited predominantly by non-beef eating communities, he will either have to give up beef consumption or ensure sale and purchase are carried out in an area outside the neighbourhood. Bringing home purchased meat could also be difficult given how it will be difficult to prove where it was purchased. A virtual target could be placed on his back, only because of what he eats as neighbours could feel empowered to surveil and complain against such people. Sometimes, such complaints can be made out of sheer vendetta or for gentrification purposes.

Similarly, if a new temple or satra is built in any area, automatically a 5 km radius around it becomes a no-beef zone, thus causing inconvenience to beef-eating residents of the area. This can once again be used as a strategy to push beef-eating communities into ghettos and further marginalise them. This could also be a shot in the arm for cow-vigilantes and lead to communal violence and mob lynching in the name of cow-protection.

Placing the burden of proof that cattle are being transported for agriculture or animal husbandry on the transporter of the cattle also makes them vulnerable to surveillance or even attacks by cow-protection groups.

The Bill also gives wide powers to the police to enter and inspect premises where they suspect any offense under the Act is being committed. This can be used as an intimidation tactic against minorities. Moreover, corrupt officials can easily turn this into an extortion racket.

Imprisonment for 3-8 years appears harsh for such a crime, and a fine of Rs 3-5 lakhs is rather steep. If we take a look at victims of mob-lynching in the name of the cow, most of them were dairy farmers. How can such people be expected to pay such large amounts as fines? Or is this yet another ploy for mass incarceration of such dairy farmers who traditionally hail from certain communities?

Finally, Assam shares its border with Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland, states where beef is consumed. If cattle transporters passing through Assam are under constant scrutiny, this could affect beef supply in these neighbouring states and harassment for their residents. 

The entire new Bill may be read here: 

Related:

Cow Slaughter Prevention Laws in India
SC slams Lynch Mobs, issues directions to govt to check ‘mobocracy’

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Assam Police Firing: Support for victims grows

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Assam Police Firing: Support for victims grows

12-hour Bandh in Assam, and protest by the Congress party even as nearly 3,000 police and paramilitary personnel are deployed to “maintain peace”


Sunday

03

Jan

Pan-India

Saturday

05

Dec

05 pm onwards

Rise in Rage!

North Gate, JNU campus

Thursday

26

Nov

10 am onwards

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Theme

Taliban 2021

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Communalism Combat had taken a deep dive into the lives of people of Afghanistan under the Taliban regime. Here we reproduce some of our archives documenting the plight of hapless Afghanis, especially women, who suffered the most under the hardline regime.
2020

Milestones 2020

In the year devastated by the Covid 19 Pandemic, India witnessed apathy against some of its most marginalised people and vilification of dissenters by powerful state and non state actors. As 2020 draws to a close, and hundreds of thousands of Indian farmers continue their protest in the bitter North Indian cold. Read how Indians resisted all attempts to snatch away fundamental and constitutional freedoms.
Migrant Diaries

Migrant Diaries

The 2020 COVID pandemic brought to fore the dismal lives that our migrant workers lead. Read these heartbreaking stories of how they lived before the pandemic, how the lockdown changed their lives and what they’re doing now.
Delhi HC

Hate Speech and Delhi Pogrom 2020

A spate of provocative speeches, that amount to hate speech in law and should be prosecuted allowed blood letting to spill on the streets of north east Delhi in February-March 2020

Campaigns

Sunday

03

Jan

Pan-India

Saturday

05

Dec

05 pm onwards

Rise in Rage!

North Gate, JNU campus

Thursday

26

Nov

10 am onwards

Delhi Chalo

Pan India

IN FACT

Analysis

Taliban 2021

Taliban in Afghanistan: A look back

Communalism Combat had taken a deep dive into the lives of people of Afghanistan under the Taliban regime. Here we reproduce some of our archives documenting the plight of hapless Afghanis, especially women, who suffered the most under the hardline regime.
2020

Milestones 2020

In the year devastated by the Covid 19 Pandemic, India witnessed apathy against some of its most marginalised people and vilification of dissenters by powerful state and non state actors. As 2020 draws to a close, and hundreds of thousands of Indian farmers continue their protest in the bitter North Indian cold. Read how Indians resisted all attempts to snatch away fundamental and constitutional freedoms.
Migrant Diaries

Migrant Diaries

The 2020 COVID pandemic brought to fore the dismal lives that our migrant workers lead. Read these heartbreaking stories of how they lived before the pandemic, how the lockdown changed their lives and what they’re doing now.
Delhi HC

Hate Speech and Delhi Pogrom 2020

A spate of provocative speeches, that amount to hate speech in law and should be prosecuted allowed blood letting to spill on the streets of north east Delhi in February-March 2020

Archives