In Mumbai, the huge Indian city on the Bay of Bengal formerly known as Bombay, has enacted a law that will place pious Hindus but disconcert others who do not share Hinduism. Mumbai has imposed a strict ban on beef and has closed down meat sellers throughout India’s most cosmopolitan city. This legislation on sacred cows is the strictest ever devised in India: even the possession of beef is sanctioned. Punishments include fines and up to five years in one of India’s notorious jails.
 
Mumbai’s meat sellers, of whom many are street vendors, are on strike. In addition, restaurants that sell shish kebab and minced meat pies and other delicacies to Muslims and Christians have lost a significant number of customers. Some has shut down their operations.
 
Observers fear that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who comes from the nationalist BJP Hindu party that has underscored Hinduism, will institute a nation-wide ban on beef. Recently, government policies emphasizing Hinduism have had an influence on the curricula at schools and language requirements. The age-old animosity between Hindus and Islam is shifting considerably, according to some analyst. 
 
Adherents of Hinduism consider cows as sacred. And currently, about 80% of India’s population of 1.2 billion are Hindu. Christians and Muslims, and tribal peoples, are beef eaters. In the state of Kerala, southern India, and West Bengal in the northeast, the slaughter and the eating of cows are legal.  tribes and castes are beef eaters. In states like Kerala in the south and West Bengal in the northeast, cattle slaughter is legal and beef is eaten regularly – even by Hindus.
 
Prime Minister Modi, who professed vegetarianism,  has long spoken against the beef slaughter and in favor of banning beef throughout India.
 
India is, ironically, the world's second-largest producer of beef after Brazil. Due to religious reasons and bans in various states, most of India's beef is exported to countries including Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Thailand, and Egypt.  Much of the meat is not from European-style cattle, but from water buffalo.
 
Members of the Muslim community are complaining that feel specifically targeted by the new law. According Mohammad Ali Qureshi, president of the Mumbai Suburban Beef Dealers Association, thousands of people will be out of jobs.

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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