SRINAGAR: The Jammu and Kashmir government has stoked a fresh controversy by banning the export of bovine animals from the BJP's stronghold of Jammu city, drawing sharp criticism from the separatist groups and the opposition.

"No bovine animals such as cow, oxen, bulls, calves, etc. can be transported from Jammu to other district except with written permission ... under certain conditions," the order issued by the district magistrate of Jammu on Monday states.

Senior BJP leader and PHE minister, Sukhnandan Kumar told The Citizen that the order will be "gradually extended" to include other districts of the state. "It is a welcome step. Protecting the holy cow is an obligation for our citizens under law. I am sure the administration will take stringent action so that the law is enforced in other parts of the state," he said.

Amid reports that the RSS, the ideological mentor of the BJP, is planning to hold mass recruitment drives in coming days in the state, the order is likely to spark a fresh controversy in Kashmir Valley against the beleaguered PDP patriarch Mufti Mohammad Sayeed who has been accused of doing a "sellout" before the right-wing party for the chief minister's chair.

Veteran Hurriyat leader, Syed Ali Geelani said it is a "serious matter" that will be discussed in the upcoming meeting of his amalgam. "It looks like the part of the government's strategy to implement the RSS's agenda in Kashmir," Geelani told The Citizen.

The opposition National Conference accused the chief minister of doing a 'sellout' to BJP and damaging the state's secular fabric, "Ever since the PDP-BJP government came into office, the right-wing party has been virtually running the show, for example, by making communal transfers, particularly in the Jammu region. The chief minister has been relegated to a mere spectator in his own state," a spokesperson of National Conference said.

Although the slaughter of bovine animals is prohibited in J&K since Dogra rule, the ban is rarely implemented because Kashmiris are voracious mutton and beef-eaters, the later being consumed in rural Kashmir mostly due to its rich protein content and cost factor.

The move to ban the export of bovines from Jammu is seen as part of the BJP's nation-wide crackdown on the sale of beef "to protect the holy cow", an agenda which is at the core of the saffron party's politics of polarisation.

In its manifesto last year, the right-wing party had defined "cow and its progeny" as integral to India's cultural heritage and vowed to protect it.