Talking to India Today on the Narendra Modi Government’s recent notification banning sale of cattle for slaughter, BJP’s National spokesperson in charge of Meghalaya Nalin Kohli said, “The BJP is saying this clearly that the question of having a law in a State on cow slaughter is to be decided by the State and not the Centre.”
On BJP’s stand on States, such as North East and southern States, where majority of the population consumes beef, Kohli said, “Every State Government that decides to have a law or not have a law on cow slaughter, do so keeping in mind the local food habits of that particular State and in the North East every State Government will keep this in account.”
Kohli’s statement makes it clear that BJP is open to States ruled by it allowing consumption of beef and not interfering in the local food habits. It puts to rest speculations whether the BJP Governments would ban beef in the North Eastern and southern States where its consumption is considered normal. By taking flexible stand on beef ban, BJP has avoided a rebellion in its ranks. It has also saved itself from embarrassment as a large number of BJP leaders in the North East and South consume beef.
BJP leaders in Meghalaya, including its State unit chief Shibun Lyngdoh, have already taken a stand that if the party comes to power in the 2018 Assembly elections, it will not ban consumption of beef.
Another leader, Bernard Marak, former president of the BJP’s Tura city unit in Garo Hills, had gone to the extent of promising that the price of beef would be made cheaper if the party won the State polls. He resigned from BJP today. “I have decided to quit the party because I am a Christian and Garo first… The BJP is hurting sentiments here on the beef issue. Tribal society has its own laws. The BJP is trying to push Hindutva,” he said.
Meghalaya has a substantial Christian population. Beef is staple for the three major tribes – Khasis, Garos and Jaintias.
In May 2015, Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju was quoted as saying that he eats beef and no one could stop him from doing that. He was responding to Union Minorities Affairs Minister’s comment that those who wanted to eat beef could go to Pakistan.
Rijiju hails from another North Eastern State – Arunachal Pradesh. Later, Rijiju clarified that he had been “misquoted”. However, he still maintained that India was a secular country and food habits cannot be stopped. He said just as Hindu faith and sentiments must be respected in Hindu majority States, those of other communities be respected in their own dominant States.
Sensing a trouble in its bid to expand base in other States, BJP has clearly tweaked its stand over beef ban. The party and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have turned their focus on North East, West Bengal and Kerala. Beef consumption is considered normal in all these States. Any attempt to curb it is likely to be met with stiff resistance.