Legal strictures on sacrificing animals in Kashmir draw flak

The legal strictures on sacrificing animals in the Muslim majority Jammu and Kashmir of India draw flak ahead of the Eid-ul Azha.

The Eid holiday in the India region is to be marked from July 21 to July 23.

International news agency Agence France-Presse reported that the Indian government had ordered authorities in Kashmir to ban the slaughter of all animals in Kashmir for the Islamic festival of Eid-ul-Azha.

The order by the Hindu nationalist government, released late Thursday, is likely to heighten tensions in Indian Kashmir where anxiety has deepened since New Delhi revoked its special autonomous status in August 2019.

The Himalayan region is divided between India and Pakistan, and the New Delhi government has put the territory it controls under direct rule.

Citing animal welfare laws, the government’s Animal Welfare Board of India ordered police and authorities to ‘take all preventive measures’ to halt the ‘illegal killing of animals and to take stringent action against offenders.’

Cows are considered sacred by many Hindus and their slaughter is banned in the region and many Indian states. The new order extends the ban to all animals for the first time.

Muslims traditionally kill a goat, sheep or cow for Eid al-Azha, or the Feast of the Sacrifice, and the Muttahida Majlis-e-Ulema, a coalition of Muslim religious bodies in Kashmir, expressed ‘strong resentment’ at the government move.

The group said in a statement that the sacrifice of animals to honour the Prophet Ibrahim ‘is an important tenet of religion on this day.’

The MMU urged the government to revoke the ‘arbitrary’ order that is ‘unacceptable to Muslims of the state as they directly infringe upon their religious freedom and their personal law.’

The government order also triggered some outrage on social media.

The New Indian Express, however, reported that the Jammu and Kashmir administration on Friday said there was no ban on bovine slaughter in the union territory, clarifying that the earlier order seeking to prohibit illegal killing of cows and camels on the occasion of Eid-ul-Azha was issued by the animal welfare board for implementation of various acts concerning animal slaughter.

An official spokesman said the Animal and Sheep Husbandry Department clarified that the Jammu and Kashmir administration has not issued any order banning the slaughtering of animals in accordance with rules.

‘Animal Welfare Board of India every year issues advisory regarding animal slaughtering to be carried out while following laws and rules. The same advisory has been issued this year also and has been forwarded to the concerned authorities,’ he said.

Earlier, in a communication addressed to the divisional commissioners and IGPs of Jammu as well as Kashmir, the J-K Animal and Sheep Husbandry and Fisheries Department sought a ban on illegal killing of cows, calves, camels on the occasion of the Muslim festival during which sacrificing sheep, cows, calves and camels is an important ritual.

Director Planning, J-K Animal/Sheep Husbandry and Fisheries Department, while citing an official letter dated 25.06.2021 from the Animal Welfare Board of India, Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying, Government of India, said a large numbers of sacrificial animals are likely to be slaughtered in the UT of J-K during Bakra Eid (Eid-ul-Azha) festival scheduled from July 21-23, 2021.

‘The Animal Welfare Board of India, in view of animal welfare has requested for implementation of all precautionary measures to strictly implement the Animal Welfare Laws viz. Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960; Transport of Animal Welfare Rules, 1978; Transport of Animals (Amendment) Rules, 2001; Slaughter House Rules, 2001; Municipal Laws & Food Safety & Standards Authority of India directions for slaughtering of animals (under which camels cannot be slaughtered) during the festival,’ the communication read.

The Director Planning said he is directed ‘to request you to take all preventive measures as per the provisions of acts & rules referred above for implementation of the animal welfare laws, to stop illegal killing of animals & to take stringent action against the offenders violating animal welfare laws’.

The copies of the letter were sent to Chairman, Animal Welfare Board of India for information; all District Magistrates; Commissioner, SMC/JMC; Director, Animal Husbandry Department, Jammu/Kashmir; Director, Sheep Husbandry Department, Jammu/Kashmir; Director, Urban Local Bodies, Jammu/Kashmir; and all Senior Superintendents of Police.

The communication drew strong criticism from religious and political organisations.

The National Conference took strong exception to the communication seeking to ban illegal killing of cows and camels on the occasion of Eid-ul-Azha.

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