GUWAHATI: The Assam Assembly passed 'the Assam Cattle Preservation Bill, 2021' on Friday amidst a walkout by the Opposition, in protest.
Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had introduced the Bill on July 12 2021, the first day of the Budget session. The prime objective of the Bill is the preservation of cattle by regulating their slaughter, consumption and illegal transportation.
During the discussion on the Bill, the Opposition comprising Congress, AIUDF and CPI(M) opposed the Bill and demanded the Speaker to send it to the Select Committee of the Assembly to examine it thoroughly.
On behalf of the BJP and its allies, the Chief Minister dismissed the Opposition's suggestion. That led the members of Congress, AIUDF and CPI(M) to stage a walkout. The House passed the bill in the absence of the Opposition.
The Chief Minister's speech had thrust on Hindus respecting cows. He said, "Mahatma Gandhi did say that – 'cow protection is the gift of Hinduism to the world'.
"I respect Gau Mata. Gandhiji had a role in the Congress. However, that Congress has opposed the Cattle Preservation Bill in Assam. The cow is our mother. We all have cow milk. The killing of cows only reflects the lack of gratitude of mankind."
On the opposition's argument that restrictions on the selling of cows will have a telling effect on the state economy, Sarma said, "In Assam, lifting of cows is more severe than their selling. We respect cows and worship them. We cannot accept when anyone says that selling cows boost the economy. The Bill has no ill-intension. Any rational Muslim will never oppose this Bill.
"Even Gopinath Bordoloi did bring a Bill on protecting cows in Assam in 1950. It was an unprecedented move from the Assam Congress when there were no such Bills in any other states in India.
"We don't want to interfere in people eating beef. However, it is a fact that there were communal flare-ups in the Barak Valley and lower Assam districts concerning beef in the past few years.
"From next year, we will implement biotechnological devices that ensure the birth of more female calves than male ones. The first such project will start from the Barpeta district. I had talks with experts on this yesterday.
"It's poverty that drives some Hindus to sell their cows. When they sell cows, they give them tearful send-off."
Earlier, Leader of Opposition Debabrata Saikia said, "The Bill needs a thorough examination before passing it as it will have a telling effect on the state economy. The House should send the Bill to its select committee."
AIUDF MLA Aminul Islam (senior) said, "Why will people rear cows when this Bill when passed, will restrict the selling and transportation of cows? The Bill says that there cannot be any cow slaughterhouse within a five-km radius around any temple, math and xatra. This condition will leave no space for Any cow slaughterhouse in the state."
CPI(M) MLA Manoranjan Talukdar said, "The Bill, if passed, will affect the state economy, besides spreading hatred in society."
Congress MLA Rakibul Hussain, AIUDF MLAs Rafiqul Islam and Aminul Islam (junior) and Congress MLA Kamalakshya Dey Purksyastha also demanded the Chair to send the bill to the select committee of the House.
During the discussion, independent MLA Akhil Gogoi staged a walkout protesting the bill.
The word "cattle" in this Bill means bulls, bullocks, cows, heifer and calves. The State Government struck buffaloes and buffalo calves from the purview of the word 'cattle' as used in the Bill. AIUDF MLA Aminul Islam (senior) also wanted
deletion of buffalo from the Bill during the discussion.
The Bill also aims to regulate the sale and purchase of beef by allowing such activity only in places permitted by competent authorities. It seeks to ensure that permission to sell and purchase beef is not granted in areas that are "predominantly inhabited by the Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and other non-beef-eating communities or places that fall within a five-kilometre radius of a temple, xatra and any other institution as may be prescribed by the authorities.
The Bill seeks to stop the transport of cattle from any place within Assam to places outside the State "where the slaughter of cattle is not regulated by law".
Contraventions according to the Bill shall be cognizable and non-bailable. Anyone found guilty shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than three years or a fine that may vary between Rs 3 lakh and Rs 5 lakh or both..