Guwahati, July 12: The BJP-led government in Assam on Monday tabled The Assam Cattle Preservation Bill 2021 in the state Assembly that seeks to prohibit the sale of beef in areas predominantly inhabited by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and other non-beef eating communities.
It also seeks to disallow the sale of beef or beef products within a 5 km radius of temples, satras (Vaishnavite monasteries) and other Hindu religious institutions.
In what could irk neighbouring states like Mizoram, Nagaland and Meghalaya, the bill proposes a prohibition on transportation of cattle from other states or to other states through Assam without permission.
The bill, tabled by Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma seeks to replace existing The Assam Cattle Preservation Act 1950 saying that the latter lacked stringent legal provisions to deal with the issues arising out of slaughter, consumption or transport of cattle. The bill was tabled on the first day of the first budget session of the Sarma government.
The 1950 Act allows the slaughter of cattle above 14 years of age with proper approval by a local veterinary officer. The new bill also retains the provision but allows the slaughter of cattle only in licenced or recognised slaughterhouses.
The new bill also seeks to enhance the quantum of punishment for violators of the new provisions to a jail term ranging between three and five years and a fine of Rs. 3 to 5 lakh or both. The 1950 Act has the penal provision of only six months jail and a fine of Rs. 1,000 only for the violators.
The new bill was approved by the state Cabinet on Thursday. Parliamentary affairs minister Piyush Hazarika on Thursday said the bill was prepared as per a promise of BJP ahead of Assembly elections held in March-April this year.
BJP and its allies formed their government in Assam for the second consecutive term. The saffron party replaced Sarbananda Sonowal with Himanta Biswa Sarma as the new Chief Minister, who has been waving the Hindutva flag more vigorously than Sonowal.
BJP ruled states like Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh at present has similar cattle preservation act.
The new bill, however, says permission for transportation of cattle would be issued for bonafide agricultural or animal husbandry purposes only. No permission is also required for carrying cattle to and from registered agricultural markets for sale or purchase of the same within the district.
Although beef-eating Nagaland or Mizoram has not yet reacted to the proposed restriction for transportation of cattle through Assam, Meghalaya (also beef-eating) CM Conrad Sangma on Friday said the state would be compelled to seek the Centre's intervention in this regard.