A public hearing in Delhi on Tuesday highlighted the problems faced by people due to the closing down of slaughter houses, attacks by so-called gau rakshaks, and the unannounced ban on the sale of meat dishes in dhabas and hotels. The jury panel for the hearing consisted of journalist Saba Naqvi, former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court Justice AP Shah, and Communist Party of India (Marxist) Polit Bureau member Subhashini Ali.
The public hearing was organised by Save Environment and Human Rights (SEHAR), a collective of teachers, students, activists and lawyers.
The event saw a large gathering of people coming together from Alwar, Loni, Nuh, Noida and the National Capital Region to ask for a solution for their shared problem; a problem that they associate with the coming of the BJP government as a whole, and the Yogi regime in particular.
There were large groups of meat sellers, transporters, biryani vendors, small hotel owners and dairy farmers who came forward to talk about the everyday struggles faced by those directly or indirectly involved with meat trade and how the recently imposed government policy posed a real threat to their livelihoods.
As people took to the podium to share their struggles and experiences what came to the fore was that in the past 6-7 months there has been a major crackdown on the meat business all over North India, especially in Uttar Pradesh.
People are being harassed on the pretext of not having proper licenses while at the same time, applications for issuing new licenses or renewing old ones are being denied.
"On 19th March the government was formed, from 22nd the attack began. They suddenly started harassing us about licenses and NOCs like never before", said Ali E Nabi, a meat shop owner and resident of Noida. Like Ali, many others saw this as a direct result of their identity as Muslims.
While this kind of harassment has, to a large extent, been aimed at the Muslim community, there are also a large number Hindus who have been on the receiving end of it. These are all Dalits or those belonging to lower castes and extremely poor households. The common perception is that this has to do with the beef ban.
However, to the surprise of many, even those selling chicken, mutton and fish have been forced to shut down their shops. In the name of cow protection, the government has continued to alienate a large section of society – the downtrodden and minority groups.
“You’re more focussed on looking after cows when we are the ones who elected you. We definitely will not make that choice again” said Imamuddin, a small fish vendor from Noida.
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