Kerala has strongly opposed the centre's new regulation that restricts sale of cattle for slaughter.
New Delhi: After protests from several states, the Union Environment Ministry is examining changing the definition of cattle in its new rules to exclude buffaloes from a ban on sale for slaughter at animal markets, sources have said. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Kerala's Pinarayi Vijayan called the order an attack on state powers and said they would challenge it legally. Mr Vijayan has written to all Chief Ministers, saying it is unfortunate that a "drastic measure" was taken bypassing "elected representatives and a public debate". Protests have spread from Kerala to Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
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Mamata Banerjee spoke in rare consonance with the Left today when she described as "an attempt to encroach into state power," the central government's move, stating, "We won't accept the Centre's decision, it is unconstitutional; we will challenge it legally."
"What we eat cannot be decided by Delhi or Nagpur," Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan asserted, referring to the BJP, which leads the Centre, and the party's ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which is headquartered in Maharashtra's Nagpur.
In his letter Mr Vijayan has asked all states to "stand together" and "oppose" the ban on sale of cattle for slaughter at markets and urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to withdraw the new regulations. "Unless we stand together and oppose this anti-federal, anti-democratic and anti-secular move, it may mark the beginning of a series of similar measures aimed at destroying the federal democratic fabric and secular culture of our country," Mr Vijayan said in his letter.
Mr Vijayan has called it a "covert attempt to usurp the powers of state legislatures" in the guise of rules. Indian states have the power to pass their own laws on cattle slaughter and beef consumption, but the Centre's notification makes changes in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, which is applied across India.
Eating beef is part of culinary tradition in Kerala and most parties in the state have strongly opposed the new rules. The Congress is observing a "black day," while the ruling CPM has hosted "beef fests" at about 200 places in the state to protest against the Centre's order.
MK Stalin of Tamil Nadu's chief opposition party the DMK, will lead a protest in Chennai on Wednesday. Mr Stalin said the Centre has "snatched away" the fundamental right to choice of food given by the Constitution. In neighbouring Puducherry, Congress chief minister V Narayanaswamy said he would not implement the Centre's orders.
The environment ministry said last week that animal markets will only be able to trade in cattle meant for agricultural purposes. It said cattle for slaughter will have to be bought from farmers directly, defining cattle as bulls, cows, buffalo, steers, heifers, calves and camels.
The order is a setback to the Muslim-dominated meat industry and meat traders have said they plan to petition the Supreme Court to get it withdrawn.
The Congress has suspended three Youth Congress workers who were caught on camera slaughtering a calf in public and distributing its meat to protest against the Centre's order. Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi has called the incident "barbaric".