Camels and Cows at Bakr Id
by Sandhya Jain on 12 Dec 2008 7 Comments

Camels and cows constituted an astonishing Bakr Id fare in distant parts of the country this year, reinforcing a trend growing over the past few years. Under a pernicious Saudi attempt to Arab-ize and Wahab-ize Indian Islam, Muslims are increasingly transporting camels to various states for the Id sacrifice, spurning the humble goat that was the traditional sacrificial animal from the time of the Prophet.

Moreover, despite a much appreciated fatwa from Deoband Dar ul Uloom, a large number of healthy cows seem to have been sacrificed in southern states, in disregard of Hindu religious sensitivities. And prior to the fatwa, there were distressing incidents of cow slaughter in different parts of Delhi that seemed designed to provoke the Hindu community.

This year, a host of rich Kolkata families at Metiabruz imported sahi camels from Rajasthan at the princely sum of Rs 25,000/- each (Pioneer, 11 December 2008). The number of camels that went to West Bengal and other States is not known, but a family that purchased one for sacrifice argued that one camel or one cow equalled seven sacrifices, whereas a goat equalled a single sacrifice. About five lakh goats are sacrificed annually in Kolkata alone.

The growing ‘fashion’ to sacrifice camels, an animal integral to the unique socio-economy and cultural heritage of Rajasthan and some parts of Gujarat, could soon threaten the very existence of the camel species in India, and vastly disturb the desert economy and ecology. Sadly, despite several pleas and warnings, both the Rajasthan and Gujarat governments have been grossly indifferent to the plight of the gentle ship of the desert, and the trafficking of the animal for slaughter across State boundaries, acknowledgedly reaching as far as Chennai, Hyderabad, and Kolkata, is becoming alarming.

One does not have to be an animal lover, a vegetarian freak, or an environmentalist to see that this trend could send the camel the way of the Sariska tiger. More unsavoury is the vulgar stimulation of ‘Arab-like’ appetites among rich Muslims. This negates the spirit of sacrifice associated with the sacrificial goat in all ancient traditions, and makes Bakr Id an occasion for crass display of wealth among a rising class of rich Muslims. It is a class that seems to have escaped the notice of the Sachar Commission; an honest census of camels exported for slaughter to each State would probably reveal a truer picture of Muslim affluence in India.

In Chennai alone, more than nine camels were slaughtered on Bakr Id, despite fervent protests from animal lovers and the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI). The latter even wrote to the Tamil Nadu government to prevent the slaughter of camels and cows at Bakr Id as it violates animal welfare laws (D.O.letter No. 79/2008-PCA dated 5th December 2008).

Sadly, such pleas have fallen on deaf ears in previous years also. AWBI secretary D. Rajasekhar points out that cruelty to any animal is a punishable offence under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. The camel, a desert animal, is brought to states as far as Tamil Nadu, about 2,000 kms away from its Rajasthan habitat, by foot and on hard surface, which causes severe psychological stress. Camels are brought to the state for the sole purpose of slaughter, in semi-starved condition, without proper water, medicine or care, and without the valid transportation permits and health certificates required under law.

Further, there are no trained butchers or special camel slaughterhouses as required under slaughterhouse rules. Instead, there is tremendous cruelty at the time of open road slaughter, and the animals bleed on the road, denied dignity in death.

There is no veterinary doctor to certify that the animal is fit for human consumption or licensed trader who can legally sell the meat. Indeed, the Municipality Act forbids the selling of camel meat in open places; the Jananayaga Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam (JMMK) which brought nine camels to the city claimed it had informed the police

Besides known instances of camel slaughter, there were “unconfirmed reports” of cows being slaughtered at some mosques in Chennai. This was unofficially confirmed by Animal Welfare Board sources and persons owning shops in the vicinity of mosques.

The purpose of this article is not to sensationalise the practice of Id in any part of the country, or even to question the community’s culinary tastes. But there is a vast disconnect between what community leaders say they will abide by and what happens, which requires honest discussion in the best interests of the nation.

Indians, especially in north India, greatly appreciated the Muslim community’s spontaneous decision for restrained Id festivities in the wake of the unbearable tragedy at Mumbai. In Delhi, many Imams led prayers condemning jihadis as persons untrue to the faith; in Mumbai prominent Bollywood celebrities wore black bands to express anguish; and ordinary citizens in many cities renounced new clothes to mark the festivities. This definitely warmed sentiments across the country.

We may therefore legitimately question why a fatwa delivered by Maulana Zafarullah of Deoband to slaughter animals other than the cow was disregarded in some places. Nor is this an indictment of Muslims alone. Anguished citizens have noticed that disregard for Hindu religious sentiments more often than not takes place in States where the ruling party has no respect for Hindu cultural sensitivities. In other words, secular political parties promote disrespect for the Hindu religious ethic and civilisational ethos, and we need to recognise this as a political reality of our times.

In the capital of Delhi, the past six months have seen the rise of seemingly unconnected incidents of cow slaughter, some of which have been reported in the media, and these deserve an explanation. In April 2008, a VHP delegation raised this issue with DCP (South) Hari Govind Dhaliwal.

On 1 April, a buffalo was found cut up in the Paharganj area, and after public protests, two persons were arrested and three MCD employees suspended. Then, on 4 April, in R.K. Puram, Sector-12, two tempos loaded with beef were apprehended by Bajranj Dal cadres and the drivers handed over to the police. On 12 April, at Lakdi Pul near Madarpur Khadar, the body parts of four cows were recovered; on 16 April, six cows were killed at the same place. On 20 April, villagers blocked Mathura Road opposite Sarita Vihar police station to protest against the serial killing of cows near the Agra canal after 17 cow carcasses were found at the same place in the last seven days.

More recently, on 4 November 2008, again at Sarita Vihar, while preparations were underway for the Chhat Puja following Diwali, a cow carcass was found in the yagna kund of the Laxmi Narayan Mandir in the Janata flats. On 11 November, following reports that cows were being stolen and cut up on an empty ground behind the CNG gas station at Narela, Sector 22, citizens found five dead and three unconscious cows. Initially, the Vijay Vihar police refused to file an FIR, but promised action after a spontaneous dharna by the people.

Political parties and community leaders will have to acknowledge the fact that this is the lived reality of the two communities, the touchstone upon which both will judge and respect each other. If there is no amity or honesty at this level, there can never be a meaningful communal harmony. The rest is rhetoric.

The author is Editor,

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