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Is it really beef that India exports?

December 31, 2015


Cow slaughtering is a huge issue in India these days. Narendra Modi’s BJP had made it a part of its election manifesto during the 2014 election campaign. Given this, one cannot help but wonder how India has gained the distinction of becoming the world’s biggest beef exporter when slaughtering cows is banned in 24 out of its 29 states. The answer is simple, but it lies in the details. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), India recently surpassed Brazil and Australia in becoming the world’s biggest beef exporter. India does export huge quantities of red meat, but it is not beef — it is buffalo meat. But it is still called beef because the USDA classifies buffalo meat as beef.

The beef exports of India have touched $4.8 billion. The Modi government is now pushing for a ban on cow slaughtering throughout the country. Despite its contentious nature, the appeal has become so alluring that the Congress party has now announced it will support the government if it proposes a bill to ban cow slaughter. Digvijaya Singh, the general secretary of Congress, went one step further and said that the BJP should know that cow slaughter is banned in 24 states, most of which was imposed by the Congress itself when it was in power.

The BJP has blamed Congress for what it sees as a rising trend of slaughtering cows in the country. It feels that because Congress encouraged buffalo meat exports when it was in power, cow slaughtering is now on the rise and the country is exporting beef, ie, cow meat in the guise of buffalo meat. Officially, the export of cow meat is banned in India. Minister of State for Agriculture, Sanjeev Balyan, a member of parliament from Muzzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh (UP), says that illegal cow slaughter is on the rise in UP and is creating communal problems. Balyan is the same man who was accused of fanning communal violence in Muzzaffarnagar in 2013.

The politics on cow slaughter, beef consumption and the talk about the rise in its exports is complex. You cannot separate one from the other, especially at a time when the right-wing BJP is leading the country.

The recent case of lynching in Dadri, UP, in which Mohammad Ikhlaq was brutally killed over alleged consumption of beef is not an isolated incident. The insecurity among minorities in India is on the rise. A series of incidents over the last two years show that India has reached a point where the stage is set for more communal violence.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 13th, 2015.


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