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Gujarat, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state, has increased the punishment for slaughtering cow from seven years imprisonment to life sentences. Gujarat’s state assembly passed a bill on Friday, which says, anyone, caught transporting cows for slaughter would receive 10 years in jail.

Gujarat’s Law Minister, Pradipsinh Jadeja, noted that ”cow is not just an animal, it’s a symbol of universal life.” He went on to say that ”anyone who doesn’t spare cow, the government will not spare him.”

However, the amendment requires a formal approval, from Governor of Gujarat to become law, which is likely to be granted soon.

Read more: Indian Education Minister ‘diseases can be cured by strolling near a cow’

Cow slaughter: A social and religious crime in India

In another Indian state, Uttar Pradesh, BJP’s new chief minister, Yogi Adityanath, has launched a crackdown on abattoirs since taking office in March; it has ground the state’s meat industry to a halt. Recently, a Muslim doctor, Atik Afzal Khan from Jhabua, Madhya Pradesh, was detained for posting a picture on Facebook. The picture showed a ‘Sadhu’ buying meat from a local Muslim butcher shop. Atik sarcastically captioned the picture ”Ram buys green vegetable from Rahim’s meat shop, a rare photograph.”

The cow holds a special religious significance in Hinduism; it is worshiped as a god. Whereas for Muslims, it’s a ‘halal’ animal that can be consumed. Indeed, during Eid ul-Adha, it is often sacrificed as per religious sanctions; when Ibrahim (Abraham) was asked to sacrifice his son to show his devotion to God and later was allowed to sacrifice an animal instead.  The rich in many Muslim countries sacrifice a cow to show their devotion to God.

Read more: Yogi Adityanath’s First step: Bans Muslims from Selling Meat

Last year, a 50-years old Muslim man, Muhammad Ikhlaq, was brutally murdered of alleged meat eating. Police later found it was mutton, not beef

Hindu activists have long accused the Muslim-dominated meat industry of covering up the slaughter of cows and passing off the meat as buffalo, which are not revered as holy. Cow slaughter is a hot-burning issue in India, where even rumors of cows being transported can spark murderous reprisals and religious riots. Squads of “cow protection” vigilantes are known to roam highways inspecting livestock trucks for any trace of the animal.  Many Muslims have been killed in India for eating cows meat. Last year, a 50-years old Muslim man, Muhammad Ikhlaq, was brutally murdered for allegedly eating beef. Police later found it was mutton, not beef.

Read more: ‘Muslim Women Should be Taken from their Graves and Raped’: Where is Uttar Pradesh Headed Now?

Muslims are not alone in being pressurized into not eating beef; other minorities – Christians, Buddhists, and Sikhs – often become victims of this ‘felony’. The conflict over the respect for the cow in India has taken many innocent lives.

This move of India towards the rightwing fundamentalism is disturbing for all Indian minorities as well as Hindu liberals. The move is becoming sharper after the BJP has won a sweeping majority in the state elections all over the country. There was a lot of criticism and resistance to Narendra Modi selecting Yogi Adityanath as Chief Minister for the country’s largest state, Uttar Pradesh, which has over 20 million Muslims living there.

Gujrat has always been a tinderbox for Muslims who live in the state – Hindus are ever ready to light up at the slightest pretext. Gujrat riots against Muslims in 2002 saw over 2000 Muslims being wantonly killed, during Narendra Modi’s tenure as Chief Minister.

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