Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Monday tabled the much-hyped Assam Cattle Preservation Bill 2021 on the floor of the Assembly. The bill aims to protect cattle by regulating their slaughter, consumption and illegal transportation.
If passed, it will replace the Assam Cattle Preservation Act of 1950 that says a cattle can be slaughtered if it’s above 14 years of age or becomes incapacitated due to work, breeding, accident, or deformity after local veterinary officers certify that they are fit for slaughter.
Many states like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh have similar bills but the only difference is that in those states the bill is applicable to every part of the state, unlike Assam where the government excludes some areas from the bill.
What does the bill say about the sale of beef products?
The bill says one would be permitted to sell beef or beef products except in the areas allotted by the government. Beef will not be allowed to sell in areas where Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains are in majority or within areas that are in 5kms radius of a temple or a’ Satra’.
It gives permission to sell beef in recognized animal markets and one who violets it will not be allowed to enter the market area. The authority can seize cattle vehicles used for transportation and they would hand over those cattle to the ‘Gaushalas’ or similar institutions.
Does the bill restrict the transportation of cattle?
The bill bans transportation of cattle to and from Assam as well as within the state until and unless there is permission from the authority. People will not require any permission if they take their cattle for grazing in the field or for agricultural purposes. Transportation of cattle to a registered animal selling market within the district will not require any permission.
What if a person violates the Assam Cattle Preservation Bill 2021?
If the authority finds any person violating the rules of the bill the person will face imprisonment for a period of five-eight years or he will have to pay a fine of rupees three to five lakh. But a trial court can impose a lesser punishment or fine. If any person is caught repeating the same mistake his punishment will be more severe with double imprisonment.
Why is the bill gaining some heat?
The bill has sparked some controversy since its introduction. Many believe that the main intention of the government for bringing this bill is not for the protection of cattle but to hurt the sentiments of the Muslim Community.
This bill has also become a hassle for the other north-eastern states as the majority of their population consumes beef and Assam is the main gateway to the region. Reacting to the bill, Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma said that he would take the issue to the center if his state faces a shortage of beef.
How has the opposition reacted to the bill?
The two main opposition parties in the state- Congress and All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) believe that the bill could result in communal tensions.
Opposition leader, Debabrata Saikia, while speaking to a national daily said, “For example, the 5 km rule about beef. A stone can be laid and a ‘temple’ can be ‘built’ anywhere by anyone — so it becomes very ambiguous. This may lead to a lot of communal tension.”
“We congress party is studying this bill and we will also discuss the matter with our party’s law executive and will try to bring in some changes in the bill so that no controversy occurs and it doesn’t abolish the Indian Constitution,” Saikia further stated while speaking to Headline8.
Meanwhile, AIUDF legislator Aminul Islam told Headline8 that the only intention to bring this bill is to hurt the sentiments of the Muslim Community and the target is Assam because it has the second-largest Muslim population in the country behind Kashmir.
“We are sure this bill was bought with political intentions, we also want the protection of cows but why the protection of cattle bills is only bought in Assam and not in other North-Eastern states as all are BJP ruled states,” Islam added.
The AIUDF legislator also accused CM Sarma of bringing the bill only to impress the BJP high command and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).