DELHI: Public Hearing on Arbitrary Closing-down of Slaughter Houses

Atiya Gopinath

A PUBLIC hearing (jan sunwai) was held in New Delhi on September 12. This event was organised by Save Environment and Human Rights ‘SEHAR’.
The public hearing brought together people from various sections of society who have been adversely affected by the arbitrary closing down of slaughter houses, attacks by the self-proclaimed ‘gau rakshaks” and the unannounced ban on the sale of raw meat or cooked meat dishes in dhabas and hotels in the states of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.
The jury consisted of retired chief justice of the Delhi High Court Justice AP Shah, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Subhashini Ali and senior journalist Saba Naqvi. The public hearing was moderated by lawyer and rights activist Suroor Mander.
The ten depositions made to the jury highlighted the miserable and helpless state of the persons engaged in retail meat business and allied work. Those who deposed before the panel included meat retailers, drivers of vehicles transporting animals and one farmer. These aggrieved persons included one dalit from the Khatik community while all the others were Muslims.
Fateh Mohammad, a driver from Nuh, Haryana narrated the distressing state of affairs in the Mewat region neighbouring Delhi. This backward and arid region is both agriculturally and industrially poor. Pastoralism and driving of commercial vehicles are perceived as the only available means of livelihood for the average Mewati. “After the BJP government has come to power they have destroyed all our occupations; they have created a situation where no one will be able to get a license in their lifetime” said an anxious and agitated Mohammad since the government has abruptly stopped the renewal and issuing of licenses.
Zubaid who sold beef biryani on a footpath in sector 9 NOIDA for the last 15 years spoke about how he was picked up by the police three days ago for not having a license. He was only let off after 14 hours. He told the jury that the police had never asked him to present a license in the past 15 years. “Iss Yogi sarkar ke aane ke baadh hi yeh shuru hua hai, mere aas paas log chaat bhi bechte hain magar unse police kabhi license nahi maangti” (It is only after the coming of Yogi Adityanath that this harassment has started. There are many vendors who sell snacks such as chaat but the police never asks them for their licenses).
The problem of the issuance of licenses and No Objection Certificates (NOCs) seemed to be common to all retailers of meat. Ali Nabi Qureshi, who owned a meat shop in NOIDA, said that when he met the district magistrate he was told that no licenses would be issued. According to Qureshi, the police harassment began on March 23, exactly four days after Yogi Adityanath was sworn in as the 21st chief minister of Uttar Pradesh.
It has been seven-eight months since the attack on the livelihoods of those engaged in the meat retail business started which has forced many to look for other jobs such as becoming rickshaw pullers or banana sellers. “We do not know any other work, this has been our occupation (meat retail) since generations, the government should tell us what work we should take up” said Qureshi.
Many have had to pull their children out of school since they have no source of income to pay for their fees. “My children roam around on the streets now, they may become thieves and I don’t blame them, they need to eat” said a furious Mohammad Ismail, a meat seller from NOIDA.
Imamuddin was made to close his small road side fish business by the NOIDA police since he did not have a license. His shop has been shut for six months and the authorities are not willing to issue licenses. “I don’t have money to build a shop. Should we steal since we have no income now? We will be locked up in jail for stealing, like we are even now for earning our livelihood” said Imamuddin. Do recall that Yogi Adityanath after being elected as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh directed the police of Uttar Pradesh to close down slaughter houses.
Jaggu Sonkar used to sell pork in NOIDA Sector 8 but has been forced to close as a NOC, which now became mandatory has been denied. Sonkar’s case is evidence of the fact that dalits are also at the receiving end of these anti- minority measures.
Shaukat Ali, a farmer from Alwar district in Rajasthan narrated an incident where the police stopped him while he was returning to Alwar after buying eight milch cows from Punjab. The police confiscated the cows and put them in a gaushala, where all of them fell sick. “The cows I bought would have yielded 20 to 25 litres of milk each but they just left them to starve and two calves even died,” he said. The cows Ali bought were worth Rs 60,000 but after their health deteriorated in the gaushala, they are now worth only Rs 20,000. Ali said that the situation in Rajasthan is worsening; drivers are scared so no one is willing to transport the animals. All the Hindus engaged in dairy farming are continuing with their work and no one is troubling them.
The depositions seem to suggest that the BJP is using a multi-pronged strategy to target Muslims and dalit livelihoods – use of new rules and the police on the one hand and the threat of the lynch mob, on the other.
While Saba Naqvi said that she would take up this issue via the media, Justice Shah said that along with political mobilisation to resist these attacks, legal recourse should also be taken up to fight this misuse of rules. Shah offered his support in resisting this assault on the livelihood of vulnerable minorities and dalits. This is a ploy of the government, this has become a huge business” said Subhashini Ali. She said that earlier it was thought that this was a struggle of only a few people – the ones who sell meat and the consumers of it but as time has passed it is evident that it part of a ploy of the government to attack the livelihoods of all those involved in the meat export business, the leather industry and farmers.

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