NEW DELHI: A wave of outrage was set off in Indian-controlled Kashmir on Friday after authorities in the disputed Muslim-majority region banned the sacrifice of animals during the Eid Al-Adha holiday.
Muslims constitute more than 70 percent of Kashmir’s population. They traditionally mark Eid Al-Adha, the Islamic festival of sacrifice, by offering special prayers and slaughtering livestock, usually a goat, cow or camel, and giving the meat to the poor.
But the local administration on Thursday ordered a “ban on illegal killings or sacrifices of cows or calves, camels and other animals,” warning of “stringent action against the offenders violating animal welfare laws.”
Kashmiris say they see the ban, coming ahead of the second-most important Muslim holiday, as yet another move by India targeting their identity.
“The order is against Article 14 of the Constitution of India which guarantees equal treatment, and also against Articles 25 and 26 which guarantee freedom of religious practices,” Srinagar human rights lawyer Habeel Iqbal told Arab News. “This order targets a particular community and hence is bad in law.”
Others see the ban also as an attack on religious freedom in Kashmir.
“This is a communal agenda of the right-wing Hindu government who are depriving Muslims, who are a minority across India, even of their basic fundamental rights to the freedom of religion,” said Majid Hyderi, a journalist and political analyst in Srinagar.
“The issue like the ban on meat goes against the basic emotion and sentiments of the people and this might lead to a backlash and further alienation of the people of the region.”
Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Pandurang K. Pole, the main implementing authority for the order, was not available for the media on Friday, while the director of the Department of Animal Husbandry in Srinagar, Purnima Mittal, declined to comment.
The ban follows a series of regulations targeting the indigenous population of the region that until August 2019 was India’s sole Muslim-majority state.
In that month India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government abrogated Articles 370 and 35A of the country’s constitution, which granted special autonomous status to Kashmir, and scrapped its statehood by dividing it into two federally administered units.
That move was followed by a crackdown on political activity, arrests of hundreds of political leaders, and a series of administrative measures that raised concerns over attempts at engineering a demographic change in the Himalayan region.
“Since Aug. 5, 2019, there has been a pattern of issuing new orders, one after another, at a galloping pace. Most orders are being viewed as a part of the ruling BJP’s civilizational and ideological project with respect to Kashmir,” Srinagar author and journalist Gowhar Geelani said.
“The latest order, the ban on slaughter, is a part of the series. The BJP decides the menu, food habits, culture, identity and history,” he said.
Srinagar businessman Aijaz Ahmad said the new ban was like rubbing salt in the wound.
“This attack on religious sentiment is not good,” he said. “This is a deliberate provocation and attempt to stir up resentment.”