ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Strange Notion of Communal Harmony

Madhya Pradesh's law banning cow slaughter is discriminatory and arbitrary.

The Madhya Pradesh (MP) government has put forward a strange reason for amending the Gau-Vansh Vadh Pratishedh (Sanshodhan) Act or cow slaughter law to introduce far more stringent provisions than the earlier Prohibition of Cow Slaughter Act 2004. It believes that this is in the interest of communal harmony in the state. The amended Act provides for harsh punishment and grants the police extremely arbitrary powers. It essentially criminalises the eating habits of millions of citizens, especially Muslims, Christians, dalits, and a large number of Hindus too. The punishment now for cow (and calf) slaughter will carry a minimum of one year and maximum seven years’ imprisonment along with a fine of Rs 5,000. Even storing or transporting beef will now be punishable with a minimum term of six months, which can be extended up to three years.

The most contentious provision in the law is that a “competent authority” has been empowered to “enter and inspect any premises” where he has “reason to believe that an offence under this Act has been, is being, or is likely to be committed”, and take necessary action. More importantly, the onus is on the accused to prove his or her innocence. Given the way the police and the legal system function, such a provision is more than likely to be abused as it allows scope for wide interpretation. Add to this the fact that the present MP government has a history of targeting the state’s religious minorities, one can see that far from helping communal harmony, the law is likely to inflame passions.

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