JAMMU: A day before Mehbooba Mufti would be sworn in as Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, an intriguing circular has been issued by the district administration in Jammu banning transportation of bovine animals. The ban order would be in vogue for a period of two months.
The ban on transportation of bovine animals led to a major controversy in August 2015 when a Division Bench of Jammu High Court ordered implementation of a feudal period law banning sale and possession of beef. The issue triggered massive protests in Kashmir even as right wing activists in Udhampur set ablaze a Kashmir-bound truck leading to death of co-driver of the vehicle. The beef ban and curbs on transportation of bovine animals turned into a tough situation for the then Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed to handle.
Observers say that the timing of district administration’s order to ban transportation of bovine animals is quite remarkable.
“The District Magistrate, Jammu in exercise of the power vested under section 144 Cr PC has directed that no bovine animals such as cows, oxen, bulls, calves etc be transported from Jammu to other districts except with written permission from District Magistrate or Additional District Magistrate, Jammu, under certain conditions imposed by office from time to time,” an official spokesman said.
“This order shall come into force with immediate effect and shall remain in force for a period of two months from the date of its issue or if the order is rescinded, whichever is earlier,” the order reads.
The controversy erupted last year when a Division Bench comprising Justices Dhiraj Singh Thakur and Janak Raj Kotwal ordered implementation of a law existing in Ranbir Panel Code (RPC) that bans sale and possession of beef in Jammu and Kashmir. The verdict came in response to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking directions on slaughtering or killing of bovine animals to be declared an offence punishable under Section 298-A and possession of such slaughtered animal an act punishable under Section 298-B of the RPC.
The court verdict evoked sharp criticism from business community, civil society, common people and separatist leaders in Kashmir. They described the verdict as interference in the religious matters. Pro-azaadi leader Syed Ali Geelani issued a protest calendar against the beef ban while Dukhtaran-e-Millat chief Asiya Andrabi publicy defied the ban by slaughtering a cow publicly.
The controversy took an ugly turn when activists belonging to a right wing Hindu group attacked Kashmir-bound truckers in Udhampur on October 9, 2015. A 22-year-old trucker Zahid Rashool Bhat, a resident of
Anantnag was attacked with a petrol bomb. Bhat died in Safdarjang Hospital in New Delhi on October 18 leading to massive protests in Kashmir. The authorities later arrested five persons involved in the crime and booked them under Public Safety Act (PSA). The kingpin of the assault remained at large.
Several developments revolving around the beef ban controversy including roughing up of Langate legislator Engineer Rashid by BJP legislators inside the state assembly created bad blood between the coalition partners the PDP and BJP.
However, later the controversy came to a rest when a Special three-judge bench comprising Justices Muzaffar Hussain Attar, Ali Muhammad Magray and Tashi Rabstan vacated the earlier order of Jammu branch of the High Court seeking implementation of the provisions of the Ranbir Panel Code (RPC) against the bovine slaughter. It also dismissed the direction of a Srinagar based division bench asking government to explain as to why the old law banning beef trade is not scrapped. The apex court had suspended the verdict of Jammu bench for two months.
Technically, the fresh direction restored the law in vogue since 1892 to its original form but asked the state government to review the existing laws in the backdrop of sensibilities associated with them.
“The state of Jammu and Kashmir in view of observation made in this order shall have to consider reviewing of existing laws and take policy decision within the framework of Constitution, and ensure that no inter-religious conflict takes place amongst the people of the State”, the judgement said.
“The executive wing of State has to apply its mind, frame a policy and cull out a solution which satisfies the soul of the Constitution”, it reads.
The Jammu district magistrate’s latest order is not in contravention to the division bench order but it certainly grabs attention as to why the order was passed a day before the oath taking ceremony, High Court lawyer MA Wani told Kashmir Reader.