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HomeOpinionsUnderstanding the essence of the new Cattle Preservation Bill (2021) of Assam

Understanding the essence of the new Cattle Preservation Bill (2021) of Assam

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The newly formed government has taken a pledge to undo a certain wrong; one of them is to curb the illicit trafficking of Cows from Assam to Bangladesh through the border areas. An act so cruel, words will fall short to describe the same when a cow is made to walk for miles with a number attached to it or pulled over barbed wires which leave the mythlogically most revered organism injured.

In lieu of this, the Assam Government has recently tabled the Cattle Preservation Bill 2021 on the floor of the Assembly which has created a lot of buzzes and this has been labelled as another act of “Saffronization” along with a comparison being made with the state of Uttar Pradesh (UP). To begin with, the provisions of the existing ‘The Assam Cattle Preservation Act, 1950 deal with core issues such as the slaughter of a cattle under section 5 of the act states that a certifying and veterinary officer’s clearance would allow the slaughter of cattle which who should mandatorily be above 14 years of age or has become permanently incapacitated from work due to reasons such as injury, deformity etc. Similarly, the new bill has proposed the same nothing much has changed. But, the critics of the said bill are politicizing the issue and nothing else.

In fact, the commentators have harped on section 11(3) of the bill that empowers police officials to ‘seize any materials related to cattle transportation. There is no harm with the said provision as police officials should be empowered to check up if someone has committed any illegal activity such as illicit cattle transportation and has come with clean hands then there is nothing to worry. There shall be no unnecessary victimization as such and checking does not amount to harassment, it is a part of the protocol. Similarly, the 1950 act had also empowered the officials to inspect.

However, the provision of a total ban on selling and buying of Beef and beef products within a 5 km radius of places of worship which includes namghars, satras or any other religious institution has irked controversy leading to tit for tat demands on the ban on pork (which is haram under Islamic) made parallelly. The critics have pointed out that this will further lead to victimization of people who consume beef such as the Muslim and Christian community as they may be attacked on their way or maybe lynched or something which is far from reality. The cases of scuffle or anything related to cattle arises on the ground of theft and nothing else; a communal cloth is wrapped in such cases to add fuel to the fire.

Yes, most of the places in Assam have a heterogeneous population where Muslim majority areas as seen in parts of lower Assam are accompanied by Hindu families as well. A small journey to buy beef would take a 5 km journey and that should not amount to harassment. A hill is being made out of a mole as there is nothing wrong in “upholding religious sentiments” if there can be an alcohol civil policy in certain Muslim majority countries such as Libya, Somalia, and Afghanistan owing to the religious sentiments as Alcohol is considered to be Haram under Islam. Iran has taken up this issue seriously who have made provision for minority non- Muslims to consume alcohol in private. Even Bangladesh our next-door neighbour has a similar stand regarding alcohol and a report published by the Department of Narcotics Control of Bangladesh has pointed out that alcohol consumption was observed among marginalized communities of rural areas of Chittagong, Mymensingh and tea Gardens of Sylhet. All the aforementioned examples point out towards one aspect “upholding religious sentiments”.

Why the hypocrisy in this issue? Author Jayeeta Sharma in her book Empire’s Garden: Assam and the Making of India has opined that Thalua Musalmans (Indigenous) populace of the Brahmaputra valley who claim to be descendants Indo-Persian nobles and warriors under the Ahoms had ‘eschewed beef’ and in fact dressed, shaved and worshiped like their Hindu counterparts. However, from the late 19th century, rapid changes occurred in Assamese Muslim society as the influence of pan-Islamist and other revivalist movements entered Assam from North India. For instance, in Darrang during the 1880s a preacher called Zalkad Ali(Safi Saheb) inspired the adoption of many orthodox Islamic practices and he influenced the Muhammadans to abandon their Hindu superstitions, allowed beards to grow and took to eating beef. These seeds of alienation or other were sown just to create communal difference which was furthered by the Bengali speaking immigrants from erstwhile Bengal(East Bengal).

The bill has been framed with a no-nonsense policy in mind and to frame the guilty only. Every now and then reports of cattle smugglers being nabbed by the police officials is floated but until and unless police are not given powers to take matters in hand(legally) or take cognizance then the passing of this bill will be futile. The then superintendent of Dhubri IPS Ananda Mishra had arrested a smuggler/criminal who was smuggling through Dhubri and South Salmara district was not only into cattle smuggling but was also involved in other offences.

If this act is implemented in its true essence, it will bring an end to a lot of connected crimes. It is a known fact that JMB(Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh) a terrorist outfit has taken advantage of the porous borders of Assam to enter and carry out terrorist activities, recently two recruits were arrested in Dhubri district which led to DGP Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta making a request to the citizen to report information and requested them to abstain from falling into their brainwash or attempt at radicalization. The real ‘beefing’ up of vigilance and inspection, as part of the bill(act), will help the authorities to keep a check to minimizing or detecting terrorist activities.

Nevertheless, there is a problem which ADGP(Special Branch) Hiren Nath had pointed out that these criminals can very well blend with ordinary people. The official spoke in terms of the aforementioned terrorist. And as the crimes or rackets are interconnected this bill(act) can turn out to be a trump card in a way.

The newly formed HBS government might be following the Gujarat-UP Model or they are following a new model of their own but it is very much clear that the intention is very much to work towards the welfare and development of the state and to break the status quo. The criticism is mostly coming from those chambers who feel uneasy about it.

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