Why BJP’s Beef Politics Will Not Work In The North East

Posted by Susmit Isfaq in Politics, Staff Picks
April 10, 2017

Three people, including a minor, were arrested on April 5 for carrying beef. The news is not from the state of Uttar Pradesh or Chhattisgarh, where eating or possessing cattle meat is prohibited. Sadly, the news is from the north eastern part of India and to be precise, from Jorhat district of Assam.

“They bought beef from somewhere on Tuesday and went to a vegetable market where they talked about their purchase. Some people took it seriously and lodged a complaint following which we picked them up,” said the police in charge, who arrested them for possessing beef.

Barking Up The Wrong Tree

The complainant, who is a local BJP leader of that area, lodged an FIR accusing the beef possessors of ‘hurting religious sentiments’. The interesting part is that under the Assam Cattle Preservation Act, 1950 eating or possessing cattle meat is not punishable. So, on what grounds were they arrested?

The charges placed on the three arrested person are Section 5 and 6 of the Assam Cattle Preservation Act, 1950 and Section 295 A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Section 5 talks about “prohibition of slaughter of cattle without certificate” and Section 6 is “prohibition of slaughter of cattle in places not prescribed for the purpose”.

In India, the cow is worshipped as a holy animal. People suspected to possess cow meat are killed in the country.

The duty of the Assam police was to first check the slaughter house for an authorisation certificate issued by the Veterinary Officer for the area where the cattle was slaughtered (Section 5(1) of the CPA, Assam). Surely, the Veterinary Officer wouldn’t certify animal slaughter outside the conditions of the Cattle Preservation Act (ACP). Therefore, I ask, on what grounds were these people arrested? Why is the Assam police barking up the wrong tree?

The other section charged upon the accused persons is 295A of Indian Penal Code. The section penalises “deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage reli­gious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or reli­gious beliefs.” The accused persons were construction workers, staying at the construction site and were cooking beef at their temporary house in the construction site.

It is hard to believe that the kid along with the other two were “deliberately and maliciously intending” to hurt one’s beliefs. Simply cooking at their own place can’t hurt another’s sentiments. If it is being hurt, then the act of getting hurt might be “deliberate” and “malicious” as it was politically motivated. Currently, the adult accused persons are in police custody and the minor is in an observation home.

The ruling party’s politics can be defined in terms of cultural chauvinism, be it ‘Hindutva’ politics or beef ban. The north east is not made up of just one single culture, whereas, the ruling party, with its chauvinistic mentality is trying to impose singularity. They have started their job quite smoothly.

They have started worshiping the lifeline of the north east, the Brahmaputra, with festivals like ‘Namami Brahmaputra’. The Brahmaputra was never regarded as ‘Baba Brahmaputra’. It was never ‘holy’ in that sense. Though some tribes worship it, it was never Sanskritized. It is a lifeline for the people and is part of a greater northeastern culture. Shockingly, the government called more than 20 Brahmins from Haridwar to ‘purify’ the Brahmaputra.

This is one of the many versions of an Assamese Thali. There is no one particular way to define Assamese culture and the ruling BJP should not try to define it in terms of beef and Hindutva.

Was it impure because we northeastern people stay by it. We, who do not divide people on caste, creed, and eat beef, pork and other meat are considered impure? Or is it because people here don’t care about others’ surnames and religion?

The north eastern part of India is known for its cultural heritage, traditions and rich food habits. Here, the ‘cow’ is not a political animal. It is very sad to see, that the members of ruling party in Assam and at the centre, have started beef politics in the north east too.

It is the starting of the flood season in Assam and here, the ruling party is engaged with the worshiping ‘Baba Brahmaputra’ and playing the petty beef game. In 2014, they came to power in Assam by promising the people of Assam development and good governance. But, it seems BJP chose to renege.

The ruling party and its allies (Asom Gana Parishad and others) should not play beef or Hidutva politics in Assam and the north east. I assure you, it won’t work here. We are proud of our cultural diversity, and to rule Assam, you need to respect this diversity.