Cow slaughter ban deferred15 October 2003
The Indian government has deferred the introduction of a controversial draft bill which aimed to ban the slaughter of cows which are accorded a semi-religious status by the country's majority Hindu community, following strident protests from opposition parties. Beef exports from India are already banned. Individual states are, however, able to implement their own laws and some allow cow slaughter, including the predominantly Christian and tribal north-eastern states. At a press conference, the parliamentary affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said: 'The government had decided to defer the introduction of the Prevention of Cruelty to Cows Bill, 2003. An all-party meeting will be convened shortly to arrive at a consensus.' A week earlier minister Swaraj had said the legislation would be tabled in the current monsoon session of parliament just ended. The Indian Leather Products Association (ILPA) has strongly opposed the ban, which would exacerbate the existing campaign against the use of local leather. In an interview S S Kumar, chairman of the exports division of the ILPA said: 'A ban on cow slaughter would cause the country's thriving leather exports to be reduced by at least $750 million, and the employment of 1.5 million people would be in jeopardy.' India's ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) party has been actively campaigning for a law banning cow slaughter since it came to power in 1998. The opposition Congress, Muslim League and communist groups are against the bill, arguing that such a law would be unconstitutional because it would deny meat-eaters a staple of their diet. With several states going to the polls in September-October, political parties, led by the BJP, have stepped up the anti-slaughter drive.