The banning of beef in various states in the country is unsustainable in practical terms, Zafar Sareshwala told The Sunday Guardian. A prominent Muslim face from Gujarat, he has accompanied Prime Minister Narendra Modi on various international visits.
“Cows were hardly ever slaughtered in post-independent India. In this country, beef means meat of buffalo, bulls, bullocks. Except the states in which Hindus too eat beef, for example in Kerala and West Bengal, most other states have legislation against the killing of cow for meat. But the governments have started bringing other animals like bulls, bullocks, buffaloes in this. This step will prove to be short term. What Maharashtra is doing at present is unsustainable,” he said in an exclusive interview to the newspaper.
When asked if he had ever discussed the issue of beef ban with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his reply was, “No, I have never had any discussion with him on this topic. But I know that he is also a very pragmatic man. During his tenure as the Gujarat Chief Minister, Gujarat never faced this problem.”
He said that there was need to look at the issue from a prism which was non-religious. “In India, cows have not been slaughtered for meat for over 30 years now. This is not something that the BJP has brought in the country. Many Congress governments in different states have banned cow meat for over three decades now. In Gujarat, Chimanbhai Patel brought this legislation in 1991. So let us take it out from our minds that the BJP has pushed this ahead,” he said, while saying that Maharashtra’s stand was unsustainable. Maharashtra recently amended its law last year to make the slaughter and consumption of meat of bull and bullock too punishable. Earlier, there was a ban on the slaughter and consumption of cow meat only.
“Today, let us assume that all the 20 crore Muslims in the country give up beef eating. They are anyway eating meat of buffalo or bull or bullock. But let us consider that they give up that too, and decide to feast on tomatoes and potatoes, what will happen? Will these vegetables then be enough to feed everyone?” he asked.
He pointed out that India is the largest exporter of beef (water buffalo meat). “If I am not wrong, buffalo export has only increased. Of the top 10 beef exporters in the country today, seven are Hindus. How can we look at it only from the prism of religion then?” he asked.
“By banning beef, we are going against the law of nature. It has created huge economic problems for many sections in society. The gravest problem this legislation has created is for the farmers. You have made his subsistence difficult by making such laws. Earlier, he used to sell the cattle which couldn’t give milk or which couldn’t serve. Now, they can’t do that. The condition is such that they themselves have nothing to eat. What will they feed the cattle?” he asked.
He also said that many industries in the country depended on the cattle. “This legislation has created economic issues. It has created problems for people who found it as a source of protein in their food. Today, the leather industry is dependent on the hide of the cattle, the pharma industry uses the blood. By banning its slaughter and possession, an array of economic problems has been created,” he said.
In India, beef has not been banned in Kerala, West Bengal, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim. In other states, the legislation differs in terms of inclusion of cattle other than the cow.