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Meat shop crackdown in Indian state hits Muslim traders

Muslim traders in Uttar Pradesh fear new chief minister -- a Hindu priest and ruling party politician -- is out to get them

29.03.2017
Meat shop crackdown in Indian state hits Muslim traders file photo

By Shuriah Niazi

NEW DELHI

Muslim traders in India’s most populous state Uttar Pradesh suspect the new chief minister -- a Hindu priest and politician from the ruling party well-known for his extremist views -- is out to strangle the minority community financially.

Just days after Yogi Adityanath became the head of the state, he announced his top priority was to shut down all “illegal” slaughterhouses and meat shops in the state, adding weight to deep concerns about his motives, which are already viewed with suspicion, particularly by Muslims.

Meat traders in the state, who have been on strike since Saturday, complain that even those with proper permits have been forced to shut shop.

“We are left with no option, but to down our shutters. They just want all slaughterhouses and meat shops to be closed,” meat shop owner Akhtar, who did not wish to tell his last name due to fears of repercussions, told Anadolu Agency.

Buffalo meat shortage

Cows are considered sacred in the Hindu religion. Devout Hindus refrain from consuming any kind of meat and are strictly vegetarian.

In several states of India -- a Hindu-majority country -- there is a ban on the slaughter of cow, bullock and ox; however, buffaloes can be consumed.

But since the new chief minister announced the crackdown against meat shops in Uttar Pradesh, buffalo meat has disappeared from the market.

Moreover, meat prices have increased in India’s capital New Delhi following the strike in neighboring Uttar Pradesh state.

According to the All India Meat and Livestock Exporters’ Association, Uttar Pradesh accounts for nearly 50 percent of total meat exports from India and employ almost 2.5 million people directly and indirectly.

An all-out ban on meat exports would mean a loss of around $1.9 billion of revenue to the state.

Other states follow suit

The crackdown by the Uttar Pradesh government has prompted other states under Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)'s control to take similar actions.

The eastern state of Jharkhand has asked meat shop owners to shut down their businesses within 24 hours if they fail to get licenses from local authorities. The Rajasthan state government also ordered a similar action.

Madhya Pradesh state government too also asked all municipal authorities to strictly check licenses of meat shop owners.

Muslims fear financial ruin

Muslims in Uttar Pradesh fear Adityanath’s decision would serve to inflame tensions between communities.

“They just want to make life more difficult for common Muslims. Thousands of people will be affected whose livelihood depends on meat business,” said Imtiaz Azam, a Muslim from Uttar Pradesh.

Some even believe Adityanath wants to ruin the Muslim community financially, especially since the meat ban not only hurts meat traders but also tanneries.

Kanpur city in Uttar Pradesh has around 400 tanneries, which rely heavily on slaughterhouses for their raw material.

Since he come into office on March 19, Adityanath is said to have shut down 100 slaughterhouses in the state, hitting the tannery sector hard.

Imran Siddiqui from Super Tannery said: “It is necessary that slaughterhouses should remain open. At least 550,000 people are associated with this business in the state.

“The industry has a turnover of around $1.42 billion in the state. You cannot think about the number of people who will be unemployed.”

Siddiqui added the tanneries business owners plan to meet the chief minister to make him aware of their problems after which they will decide on their next course of actions.

Meanwhile, the chief minister defended his action, claiming the government was only targeting illegal abattoirs and that no one should feel intimidated.

Union Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman also told the Indian parliament recently the crackdown in Uttar Pradesh was only against illegal slaughterhouses. “The state government is only closing illegal slaughterhouses. Legal business will exist,” Sitharaman said.

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