Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Monday tabled a new Assam Cattle Preservation Bill, 2021 in the Assam Legislative Assembly. It will replace the Assam Cattle Preservation Act, 1950 if passed in the assembly. The act aims, as explained by Sarma, at preventing illegal “slaughter, consumption and transportation” of cattle.
Under the new law, cows and their calves cannot be slaughter in any case. For other varieties of cattle, slaughter in Assam can take place only with authorities’ permission and at a licensed slaughterhouse after government veterinary officers issue fitness certificates. Cattle aged above 14 years or those which cannot work or procreate because of some reason will be permitted to be slaughtered.
Beef trade will be allowed only at designated places. Such trade in areas predominantly inhabited by Hindu, Jain, Sikh, and other non-beef eating communities and areas within a 5 kilometers radius of any temple, satra, or other religious institutions belonging to the Hindu religion in Assam will not be allowed at any cost.
The important thing to note in the bill is that if enacted it will apply not only to cows specifically but to the slaughter, purchase, sale, and transportation of cattle including, ‘bulls, bullocks, cows, heifer, calves, male and female buffaloes and buffalo calves.
The Opposition has said that it will work on bringing amendments to the bill. ‘This is not a Bill to protect cows or even respect cows. This has been brought to hurt the sentiments of the Muslims and polarise communities further. We oppose it and will try and bring in amendment resolutions,’ said All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) legislator, Aminul Islam, The Indian Express reported.
The proposed law also gives police officers (not below the rank of sub-inspector), or any other person authorised by the government, the power to “enter and inspect any premises”.
The proposed legislation, will not apply to “religious occasions” when “slaughter of cattle, not being a cow or heifer or calf” is allowed.
Earlier BJP in Assam had said that they will work on checking cattle smuggling from the state to Bangladesh with which it shares a long border. Under the law, no transportation of cattle will be allowed to and from Assam without a permit.
If found guilty, one can be jailed for a time period of a minimum of three years which can be extended up to 8 years, and can be fined up to Rs. 5 Lakh, or both. The punishment will be doubled for repeat offenders.
The bill, however, makes two exceptions. No permission will be needed for carrying cattle to grazing fields or for agricultural or animal husbandry purposes given that it is done within that particular district. Permission will be not needed for carrying cattle to and from the registered Animal Market for the purpose of sale and purchase within the district.