Implementing Haryana’s Cow Protection Act Will be Tough for Cops
Haryana’s labs may not be well-equipped to confirm presence of beef in biryani samples being sent by the police.
The Quint DAILY
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Eid al-Adha, an Arabic word, is a festival of sacrifice, celebrated by Muslims across the world. It is one of the most important festivals for them. People dress up in best of their clothes to offer namaz in an Eidgah or in mosques. Animal sacrifices are made in accordance with the tradition, type of animals varying from region to region. Halal meat is distributed in three parts — for the family, for sharing with relatives and friends and one third to be distributed among the poor and needy.
Eid Revelry Marred by Beef Vigilantism
Eid al-Adha, the festival of sacrificial feast, has been going on since ages but this year it left some bitterness in at least two parts of the country — the Kashmir Valley where because of the Pakistan-sponsored terror and hooliganism, curfew had to be imposed, and the poor, backward and the nondescript Mewat region of Haryana.
Most of the Indians might not
have heard of this region which falls across Haryana and Rajasthan — Nuh
district of Haryana and parts of Alwar, Bharatpur and Dholpur districts of
Rajasthan. Nuh, erstwhile Mewat district of Haryana, consists of 431 villages
and has a substantial Muslim population. Their Eid fun was marred by some officials
of police and animal husbandry peeping into their biryani to check what meat
was in there.
A candid interaction with these officials revealed that they were doing this task reluctantly, facing the ire of the locals, including women and children. Traditionally on most of the festive occasions, biryani, the world famous Muslim cuisine is cooked here with beef (but meat of an ox or buffalo and never ever of a cow).
The Mewatis admitted that even normally, the biryani being sold in the region had this type of beef in the dish. Their beefy preference is only on account of the reason that this flesh is cheaper as compared to the meat of chicken, goat or sheep. Because of poverty, people find it difficult to afford expensive meat.
Law to Protect Cow and ‘Gau Vansh’
Prior to 2015, the provisions of
Punjab Prohibition of Cow Slaughter Act (1955) were applicable in Haryana. This
act was amended several times by the governments of Haryana, to make it more and more rigorous. Though the exact number of cases registered under this act are
not readily available even with Haryana police, the legal fraternity of
Haryana and of Punjab and Haryana High Court candidly admit that the execution of
this act was not easy. Most serious of the problems was ascertainment, beyond
doubt, if the meat in question was indeed of a cow ‘vanshaj’ (family).
Subsequent amendments to the act expanded the definition of ‘cow’ to include entire ‘Gau Vansh’, that is bull, ox, heifer and calf. But the problem persisted because the difference between the meat of cow and buffalo families was generally ascertained by the amount of fat and the colour of fat.
Several judicial pronouncements are said to have been made on this basis, which remained challengeable. Veterinary experts admit, tongue-in-cheek, that these tests were not based on DNA sampling and were not foolproof.
In this background, one witnessed yet another national level ‘holistic’ controversy being raked
up by the ‘cow vigilante’ groups recently. These ‘gau rakshaks’ earned notoriety in several
places of Punjab and Haryana as well.
Not to be ‘outrun’ in the race, the BJP government of Haryana promulgated a much tougher ‘Haryana Gauvansh Sanrakshan and Gau Samvardhan Act 2015’.
The act made the slaughter of any of the ‘gau vanshaj’ — whether bull, ox, heifer or calf; disabled, diseased or barren — and also possession of beef in any form including tinned or imported beef, a crime punishable with rigorous imprisonment of three to 10 years along with a fine varying from Rs 30,000 to Rs 1,00,000 for different categories of offences committed under this law. The act provided for setting up of laboratories to differentiate beef from other types of animal meat.
Are the Labs Well-Equipped?
Armed with this act, the Haryana government set up a Cow Protection Task Force under a DIG-rank officer. This task force, with the help of officials of the animal husbandry department picked up biryani samples from a number of places in Mewat region and sent them to the Haryana Agricultural University, Hisar.
Though this university is said to have well-equipped laboratories for DNA sequencing, UV trans-illuminator, gene gun, gene pulsar, etc., it may be too early to say how good their ‘genetic characterisation’ facility is, and whether it will withstand judicial scrutiny, notwithstanding poverty of people against whom these cases are likely to be slapped. ‘Administration of justice’ is an expensive thing.
The police rank and file, including members of the Cow Protection Task Force and even the top brass, admit that the execution of this act may be rather difficult. Procedural difficulties and manpower shortage is quoted as the prime reason. Investigation of these ‘specialised’ cases and ensuring conviction will be difficult. They also claim that though the act was framed way back in 2015, a detailed mechanism is yet to be placed.
As such the top brass of the Haryana police is itself trying to slow down on this front. The officials of the Haryana Agricultural University claim that they have sent ‘test reports’ to police and the police claims that they have not received them. Moreover, the issue is getting politicised.
Fearing loss of votes, the BJP government is said to be having second thoughts on it. In all probability, this act may become another addendum to the long list of ‘impractical laws’ which are made operational only ‘as and when needed’ on political considerations.
(The writer is a former director-general (intelligence), Punjab Police. He can be reached at @shashikantips54)
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