Three people, including a minor, was arrested on 5th of April for cooking beef. The news is not from the state of Uttar Pradesh or Chhattisgarh, where eating or possessing cattle meat is prohibited. Sadly, It is a news from the North Eastern part of India and to be precise, it is from Jorhat district of Assam.
“They bought beef from somewhere on Tuesday and went to a vegetable market where they talked about their purchase. Some people took it seriously and lodged a complaint following which we picked them up,” said the police in charge who arrested those persons for possessing beef meat.
Barking Up The Wrong Tree
The complainant, who is a local BJP leader of that area lodged a FIR accusing the beef possessors of ‘hurting religious sentiments’. The interesting part is that there is no law in Assam that penalise people for eating or possessing cattle meat. So, on what grounds did the police arrested them? It is under Cattle Preservation Act of Assam, 1950. Now, the most interesting part. Under Cattle Preservation Act of Assam, 1950 there is not a single section that defines that possessing and eating beef is an offence. The charges placed on the three arrested person are section 5, and 6 of the Cattle Preservation Act of Assam, 1950 and Section 295 A of IPC. Section 5 talks about“Prohibition of slaughter of cattle without certificate” and Section 6 is “Prohibition of slaughter of cattle in places not prescribed for the purpose”.
Hence, on what ground did they arrest? Why are Assam police barking up the wrong tree? They were supposed to first check the slaughter house if they possess any authorised ‘certificate in writing signed by the Veterinary Officer for the area where the cattle was slaughtered.’ ( Section 5(1) of the CPA,Assam). If s/he had the certificate, it was all ok to do so as the veterinary officer wouldn’t have certified him/her for slaughtering if the cattle was under fourteen years of age or if the cattle hadn’t become permanently incapacitated from work or breeding due to injury, deformity or any incurable disease. ( Section 5 (2) (a) and (b) of CPA,Assam respectively) Hence, The duty of the Assam police was to first check the slaughter house.
The other section charged upon the accused persons is 295A of Indian Penal Code. The section states ‘Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.’ The accused persons are construction workers who were staying at the construction site. They were cooking beef at their temporary house in the construction site. It is hard to believe that the kid and the other two were ‘deliberately’ and ‘maliciously’, ‘intended’ to hurt one’s beliefs. By merely cooking at their own place, it can’t hurt one’s sentiments. If it is being hurt, then the act of getting hurt might be ‘deliberate’ and ‘malicious’ which is politically motivated.
Currently, the adult accused persons are in police custody and the minor is in observation home for eating beef.
Sanskritization of Assamese ‘Gamusa’
Now let us stop beating around the bush and let us come to the real point. Cultural chauvinism is what defines the ideals of the ruling party. Be it ‘Hindutva’ politics or beef ban. The North East is not made up of a single culture, it is a chorus of culture. What ruling party with their chauvinistic mentality doing is that they are trying to impose a single culture. They have started their job quite fluently. They have started worshiping the lifeline of North East, the Brahmaputra with fest like ‘Namami Brahmaputra’. The Brahmaputra was never regarded as ‘Baba Brahmaputra’. It was never ‘holy’ in that sense. Though some tribe worship it, it was never in a Sanskritized manner. It is a lifeline for the people and is a part of the greater northeastern culture. Shockingly, the government called more than 20 Brahmins from Haridwar to ‘purify’ Brahmaputra.
Was it impure because of we northeastern stay by it, who do not divide people on caste, creed, and eat beef, pork and other meat? or is it because people here don’t care about what is your surname and religion? The North Eastern part of India is known for its cultural heritage, traditions and rich food habits. Here, the ‘cow’ is not a political animal, like any other animal. It is very sad to see, that the members of ruling party in Assam and at the centre have started #BeefPolitics in North East too.
It is the starting of the flood season in Assam and here, the ruling party is engaged with the worshiping ‘Baba Brahmaputra’ and playing petty Beef game. In 2014, they came to power in Assam by promising people of Assam- development and good governance. But, it seems BJP chose to renege.
The ruling party and its allies ( Asom Gana Parishad and others) should try not to play #BeefPolitics and #Hidutva politics in Assam and North East. I assure you, it won’t work here. We are proud of our cultural diversity, and to rule Assam, you need to respect the diversity.
[Susmit Isfaq is a law student from Assam. The article first published by countercurrents.org.]