Yogi Adityanath and ban on slaughterhouses in Uttar Pradesh: A three-part ground report
A few days after Yogi Adityanath took charge as the new chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, and issued proclamations that his government would vigorously pursue and prosecute those 'malfeasants' engaged in — variously — the running of illegal slaughterhouses, and harassing women on the streets, Firstpost asked Arpit Parashar to file ground reports documenting the doings of law-enforcement forces deployed to shut meat shops and slaughterhouses across Uttar Pradesh.
A few days after Yogi Adityanath took charge as the new chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, and issued proclamations that his government would vigorously pursue and prosecute those "malfeasants" engaged in — variously — the running of illegal slaughterhouses, and harassing women on the streets, Firstpost asked Arpit Parashar to file ground reports documenting the doings of law-enforcement forces deployed to shut meat shops and slaughterhouses across Uttar Pradesh. Firstpost published a three-part series on the ban imposed on cow slaughter.
After the BJP government came to power in Uttar Pradesh and Yogi Adityanath took oath as the chief minister of the state, the police and the bureaucracy were asked to clamp down on the illegal slaughterhouses in the state, which they have duly done over the past few weeks with an iron fist. However, in the urge to implement the 'rules' by the book, the state government has ended up encouraging the bureaucracy to exploit the call for implementation for 'law and order' by forcing even regular and license-holding meat sellers to cough up exorbitant amounts of money in bribes to keep their shops open.
The negligence of the local authorities was taken advantage of by political leaders from the BJP over the years. A riot-like situation was created in Meerut in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections in 2014 when rumors of bloodied water coming out of hand pumps located around slaughterhouses started doing the rounds in the district. BJP leaders took to the streets alleging that the abattoirs had been draining blood into the ground in order to push residents away from around their centres. The issue also took religious turn as the MDA received complaints of Muslims deliberately trying to ‘insult’ Hindus, which in turn helped the BJP consolidate votes of Hindus in the Lok Sabha elections.
"While the BJP could not win the Meerut city seat this time in the assembly polls, losing badly owing to the goonda culture promoted by them ahead of the elections in the city, party workers have been harassing the workers from the meat export centres, who are out of work already, alleging that they have created the unhygienic environment deliberately because of the sealing of the slaughter houses. However, the blame lies solely with the authorities, writes Parashar in the first part of the series.
As the Yogi Adityanath government came to power in Uttar Pradesh and the crackdown on the illegal slaughterhouses and meat sellers began, a sense of quiet triumphalism prevailed in the offices and among the workers of the BJP, the second article noted. "The initial shock of a remarkable and unprecedented landslide victory had not yet subsided when, across districts of western UP there was a murmur doing the rounds: the Muslims will have it now. "Zarurat se zyada sar pe chadha rakha thha in logon ko (They have been given undue importance and gratitude)," says Ranjan Sharma, a BJP worker from Ghaziabad.
While Muslims have always been a strong voter-base in western Uttar Pradesh, they have transitioned in substantial numbers to the mainstream only in the post-liberalisation era. Most urban centres, like Meerut, Ghaziabad, Muzaffarnagar and even Moradabad were Hindu-dominated till two decades ago but with the rise in fortunes in the meat-selling business and an upswing in opportunities for the service industry, demographics have changed. Muslims are active players in the worker-class profession and have cashed in on traditional knowledge and hard labour, coupled with favourable political environment, in general.
As a result, most urban areas have seen a dominance of Muslims in the voter lists, disturbing the traditional routs of the Brahmin-Baniya combination which helped BJP through the decades, even when the Congress was in power in the country.
This rise in economic stability and political protection, which the BJP terms patronage and favouritism, is the underlying theme of discussion among the party workers nowadays, Parashar argues in his piece.
Apart from the officials, the policemen also came calling on his shop asking him to shell out Rs 50,000 as bribe-cum-security deposit to keep his shop running. "Their argument was that the rate of bribe to be paid to the police has gone up and that it would now be implemented from 2014 when the BJP had come to power at the Centre." This entails a monthly payment of Rs 500-1,000 per meat shop, which was only Rs 200 earlier.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a senior police official from Ghaziabad told Parashar, quite nonchalantly, that when the notebandi happened many of the policemen lost their savings, which were presumably their earnings from bribes received through various means. "Many of them even gave the money back to a lot of people and distributed it among various relatives or even shop owners from their areas. This opportunity now is the way to earn some of it back." And so the meat sellers simply have to compensate for the empty pockets of the policemen by coughing up hefty sums.
This political patronage has allowed the police and administration officials to implement their own set of rules and terms of engagement on the ground. Most of the meat sellers did procure licenses from the state government, which were issued under the Food Safety and Standards Act 2006. The plight of the meat shop owners whose licenses have recently expired is worse. They have been asked to deposit between Rs 3-5 lakh as 'security' which is non-refundable. Hearing a petition on the delay in issuing licenses to meat shop owners in the state, the Allahabad High Court has come down heavily on the Yogi government.
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