Retracting a wrong decision

The Centre seems to have realized at last that its blanket ban on sale of cattle for slaughter was taken in haste without realizing its wider implications. Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has now clarified that the Government does not intend to interfere in any manner with the eating habits of the people. Indeed, it cannot. Such a ban will be violative of the Constitution which does not empower the State to decide what a citizen can or cannot eat. The Additional Advocate General has told the Supreme Court that the Government intends to hold discussions on the issue with all stakeholders. In fact, this discussion should have been held first before the new policy on slaughter ban was unilaterally announced.
There is no denying that the virtual blanket ban on beef was taken under pressure of the fringe elements of the Sangh Parivar. It was the signal that the gau-rakshaks or cow vigilantes were waiting for. The series of murderous attacks on cattle traders and lynching of several of them leaves no room for doubt that the decision was politically motivated and targeted against a particular community. The economic aspect of the ban was also not taken into account, like its impact on the business of beef export and on leather industry. For a brief period meat of any kind vanished from the market.
However, beef ban is not the problem but a manifestation of it. The real problem is the attempt at imposition of a particular set of beliefs on all people. The mandatory Saraswati bandana or making yoga practice compulsory in schools etc. is reflective of this attempt. Those who subscribe to these beliefs are perfectly entitled to hold them but they should realize that in a plural and democratic polity that is India, they cannot expect conformity to majoritarian beliefs by the entire people.
Without this basic realization, the Government will have to stagger and retrace its steps many times in future on many issues. Otherwise such attempts will only generate resentment among large sections of the people, create deep fissures in our social fabric and ultimately impede development. The decision of the UP Government to dissolve Shia, Sunni and Waqf Boards for alleged corruption of their members may convey a wrong message to the minority community. The motto for the Government should be Sabka saath, sabka vikas.

Monday, 19 June, 2017