200 Years Later Beef Ban Divides Kashmir On Communal And Regional Lines

9 October 2015
Iftikhar Gilani

New Delhi: Even though Supreme Court provided the much-needed reprieve to the Jammu and Kashmir government by directing Chief Justice of J&K High Court to examine the legal issues relating to the prohibition and the validity of the law banning beef and slaughter of cows, there is no let up in the tensions, brewing on communal, regional and party lines. It was played on the floor of the Assembly on Thursday, when an independent MLA, who had organised a beef party was thrashed by rival legislatures. Over the years, ban had been largely accepted socially in Kashmir, since it was imposed by Sikh governor Dewan Moti Ram, on basis of a petition by Kashmiri Pandits in 1819. The famed Kashmiri cuisine is also based on sheep and not even goat meat. In Central Kashmir Srinagar and adjoining districts, eating buff or beef has remained a taboo. But with the avoidable controversy starting with a court order, the anathema towards beef is changing. A renewed campaign is on to show that the anti-beef law is a relic of unpopular and oppressive rulers. An independent MLA Engineer Rashid hosted a beef party at MLA hostel and last month a BJP leader from South Kashmir Khursheed Malik, who had unsuccessfully contested the 2014 assembly elections from Kokernag, announced to hold beef party, to give social acceptability to the consumption of beef in a Muslim-majority state. Out of 25 states, where cow slaughter is banned and punishable under law, Muslim majority Jammu and Kashmir is the only state, where it invites the harshest penalty of 10 years of rigorous imprisonment. Over past 195 years, since the law is in vogue, historians have recorded that 19 people in Srinagar have were executed publicly for cow slaughter. In other states the sentences vary between six months to 7 years, like Gujarat (7years), Delhi (5 years), Haryana (5 years) and Maharashtra 5 years. In J&K, even possession of flesh of killed or slaughtered animals is also an offence punishable with imprisonment up to 1 year and fine. Historian GMD Sufi records that Moti Ram's successor Dewan Chuni Lal had ordered hanging of Srinagar's noted trader Khawaja Mohiuddin Kaosa and his son-in-law Mirza Kallu. Their dead bodies were dragged through the streets of Srinagar for the alleged offence of cow slaughter. In 1845, historians record burning of 17 family members of Pirzada Samad Baba Qadri of Chatabal Srinagar in dry willow and cow dung because cow-slaughter.'This dastardly execution was supervised by the Thanadar Bholka Nath.' AR Khanday in his book Sikh Rule In Kashmir records. British author Anthony George Shiell has recorded in his 'A year In India' after visiting Kashmir in 1880 that rulers' tenderness begins and ends with the 'sacred' cow. In his 'Making of a Frontier' (published 1900), Algernon Durand wrote: 'There were still at this time unfortunate Mahomedans in prison at Srinagar, who had been confined for years, for keeping themselves and families alive during a famine by killing and eating cows.' Political scientist Prof Gull M Wani tells dna that according to his research, there have been cases of men being boiled in oil for killing a cow. 'In 1920 out of the 117 prisoners in Kashmir jails 97 were held for cow slaughter,' he claims. In Dogra rule, which started in 1846, however, the sentence was reduced from death to 10 years rigorous imprisonment and fine. By the end of 1944, Chief Justice of J&K High Court had suggested reducing the sentence to only two years. But nothing happened. After nearly 200 years now unavoidable controversy is threatening to tear apart not only the society but the first PDP-BJP alliance government, which was taken by surprise when its own deputy advocate general contested his own government in the court and secured an order from Jammu bench of High Court against beef ban, though already in vogue. Against this a former law professor of Kashmir University Dr. M A Qadri filed partition before Srinagar bench of High Court seeking annulling of anti-beef laws.