Governments play a pivotal role in maintaining the supremacy of the majority religion out of political necessity
Religion figures prominently in the daily lives of individuals in the subcontinent and has a huge impact at various levels. What has become problematic of late, however, is not religion in itself, but how people belonging to the majority faith in any country impact the lives of religious minorities in this part of the world. Governments play a pivotal role in maintaining the supremacy of the majority religion out of political necessity, and often this role is not a benign one. States have been known to have appeased the religious right wing in society by introducing laws that turn a blind eye towards the rights of minority communities.
The Indian state of Maharashtra, home to many of the country’s Muslims, passed the Maharashtra Animal Preservation Bill back in 1996, but this did not become law until March 2015, after Narendra Modi’s BJP came to power and its members from Maharashtra convinced President Pranab Mukherjee to approve the law. The move effectively banned the consumption of beef overnight, putting any Muslim eating beef in the state at risk of arrest. The law immediately brought results. Just days after its implementation, two people were arrested following accusations of slaughter of two calves. Last month, four more people were accused of smuggling beef into Mumbai.
This pattern reached its climax when a charged Hindu mob entered the house of 50-year-old Muhammad Akhlaq in the town of Dadri and beat him to death. The mob also severely tortured his son and other family members after accusing them of storing beef in their fridge, which was later found to be mutton.
Unfortunately, the situation in Pakistan bears some resemblance to what is going on in India. Certain laws in the country have been misused time and again to target non-Muslims and trample over their rights. With the passage of time, the lives of minorities living in Pakistan are getting harder and harder. The lynching of a Christian couple in Kasur in the recent past, the burning to death of three Ahmadi women including a minor girl, the incident in Joseph Colony, a Christian locality in Lahore, and the frequent target killings of non-Muslims have made their lives very difficult.
The Maharashtra Animal Preservation Bill can have a highly adverse impact in India, making lives of Muslims and other minorities harder. Similar to the way laws in Pakistan have been misused, this Indian law will also be misused to settle personal scores.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 16th, 2015.