''The bill will act as a spur to vigilante groups.''
The Yeddyurappa ministry’s move to come back to the Assembly with the bill banning cow slaughter, within days of introducing and withdrawing it, indicates muddle-headed thinking in the government. If it was assumed that wisdom had dawned on the government in the light of allround criticism over the bill, such hopes seem to have been misplaced. The bill that was tabled in the Lower House on Wednesday is a piece of legislation that was completely unnecessary, as a similar law is in force since 1964. If that law did not prove effective, the problem was with the implementation and not the law itself. The statement of objective and reasons attached to the proposed bill do not even pretend to make out a case for it.
The law virtually equates the killing of a cow with the murder of a human, and appears to have been inspired by the Indian Wildlife Act, 1972. The latter was a law that banned hunting and poaching of wild animals for food or profit and proved crucially important in arresting poaching to a great extent. The bill in question, on the other hand, seems to have no other purpose than challenging the food habits and rights of a section of the population, since it does not mention ritualistic killing of cattle, notably buffalos that goes on with impunity in temples across Karnataka.
If the law indeed had the objective of ‘preservation and improvement of the breeds of cattle,’ the government would have come out with plans to revive the magnificent breeds of Indian cattle such as Hallikar, Ongole, Amrithamahal and so on instead of merely trying to hand over veterinary farms to organisations of dubious background. Section 18 that provides for ‘Establishment of institutions for taking care of cattle’ deepens the suspicion that the bill is less about the welfare of cattle and more about an agenda that is all too familiar.
But what is most worrisome about the bill are the penalties that it provides for. They are draconian and are open to misinterpretation and misuse. Worse, the bill will strengthen the hands of vigilante groups in certain parts of the state that have been targeting minorities under the guise of protecting cattle. Many such groups are little more than mafia gangs that sport the facade of religion to prey on certain communities. The BJP government will do well to put the bill in cold storage and concentrate on development works.