States United Against Beef Ban, See It As Challenge to Federalism
BENGALURU: The row over the ban on trade of cattle for slaughter under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act seems to be picking up more steam with each passing day. Following the ‘beef fests’ held in Kerala and IIT – Chennai, to protest the national ban on trade of cattle for slaughter, a group in Bangalore under the banner ‘Mooment’ organised a protest on 29th May.
The protest however did not last for too longer, with members from right wing and left wing groups getting into a minor scuffle, following which around 50 people were taken into preventive custody and later released without any charges against them.
The pro – beef protest was organised by members of the SFY, DYFI and other left outfits, who had been granted permission to hold the event. However, in the letter seeking permission the organisers did not mention that they would also be cooking and serving beef. This came to the notice of the authorities through posts on social media platforms, and thus permission for the event was withdrawn.
After being rejected by Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, the West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee today too rejected the ban on trade of cattle for slaughter, calling it ‘undemocratic and unconstitutional’; and accusing the Centre of attempting to destroy the federal structure of the country.
Tamil Nadu’s opposition party, DMK will be holding a protest led by working president M K Stalin on May 31 against the ban, the party said, that "the fundamental right to choice of food granted by the Constitution has been snatched away".
Like Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan, Banerjee too has accused the Central government of encroaching on the powers of the State and has said that they too will be challenging the ban legally.
In a letter to other Chief Ministers on Monday, CM Vijayan clarified that the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017 fall under the State List in the Constitution, he said: “This encroachment into the domain of the state legislature is a clear violation of the spirit of federalism. It is nothing but a covert attempt to usurp the powers of the state legislature in the guise of rules under a Central Act.’
He encouraged CM’s of other states to ‘oppose this anti-federal, anti-democratic and anti-secular move’ and appealed to them in his letter ‘to convey your objection to the 2017 Rules under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, to the Prime Minister and to request him to withdraw the Rules introduced without any consultation with the states.’
The rules on preventing cruelty to animals fall under the concurrent list, meaning that both the State and Centre have a say on the issue. It is also important to note here the difference between ‘rules’ and the ‘law.’ The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1970 is a law, under which the Centre has created the recent rules. But unlike laws, which have legislative backing, rules are meant only to help implement the provisions of the law. With several states consulting their lawyers over challenging the notification, further legal consultation is expected to lead to clarity.
Among the supporters of the Centre’s recent notification have been several animal rights groups and activists too. It is imperative here to understand that although the rules being changed are under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, the heart of the matter lies somewhere else. The notification violates Article 21 of the Constitution and contradicts the fundamental rights of citizens. The issue here is not of animal cruelty but of the Government in power dictating what people should and should not eat.
Opposition to the Centre’s notification must not be misunderstood as favouring animal cruelty; rather it is opposition against the unconstitutional measures of the government, which threatens not just individuals, communities, cultural practice and small scale industries, but also and most importantly the secular nature of the State.
(Cover Photograph: Placard at a LGBT march in Bangalore 2015)