New Delhi // India’s top court on Friday rejected a petition seeking a nationwide ban on cow slaughter, a measure that would have effectively banned beef consumption in the nation of 1.25 billion.
Cows are revered in the Hindu scriptures as the “mother” of civilisation and many worshippers consider the slaughter of cows or eating beef as blasphemy. But millions from India’s huge minority populations – including Muslims, Christians and lower caste Hindus – eat beef, which is not widely available and is banned altogether in some states.
Just eight of India’s 29 states permit the consumption of beef or the slaughter of cows.
“One state may ban slaughter, the other may not,” the court said in rejecting a petition filed by an activist.
“We will not interfere in state laws.”
Several radical religious groups, and the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of prime minister Narendra Modi, have long campaigned for a nationwide ban on cow slaughter.
The BJP won national elections in 2014 with a large majority, pledging in part to ban cow slaughter. But so far the government in Delhi has failed to convince the states to pass such sweeping measures.
Some BJP-ruled states have in recent years pushed through tougher penalties for cow slaughter or possessing or eating beef, including 10-year jail terms.
Since the BJP’s national ascent to power Hindu vigilantes have carried out string of attacks on minorities over the issue, resulting in the deaths of at least 10 people.
In 2014, a 50-year-old Muslim man accused of slaughtering a cow and consuming its meat was murdered by a mob at his home near New Delhi.
The lynching prompted international outrage and accusations of a rise in religious vigilantism under the Modi administration.
* Agence France-Presse