National

Maya’s dream of Dalit-Muslim unity soars on BJP ‘vision’ to ban slaughterhouses

AM Jigeesh Kanpur/ Unnao | Updated on January 12, 2018

Leather_tan

More than 3 cr people, mostly Muslim and Dalit, employed in slaughter trade, related industries



Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati’s endeavour to forge a Dalit-Muslim alliance in Uttar Pradesh has received an inadvertent push from the BJP’s “vision” to ban all mechanised slaughterhouses in the State.

The BSP’s hope is that anger among Muslims and Dalits — two communities mainly associated with the slaughter trade — helps its cause is further fuelled by the BJP’s aggressive campaign around this issue.

It is estimated that three crore people are directly or indirectly involved in the meat, leather and cattle trade. Workers and owners of Kanpur’s age-old leather-tanning industry, which is already under duress because of demonetisation and the anti-pollution drive along the Ganga, are worried about their livelihoods if the BJP comes to power.

The party, however, believes the issue holds the potential to consolidate the Hindu vote. The promise in the manifesto to ban slaughterhouses is thus an aggressive campaign issue. “All slaughtering units will be closed down if the BJP comes into power. Crores of farmers will benefit as milk and milk products have become the only source of income for them due to farm distress. We will not allow the ‘slaughtering’ of their only income,” said Om Prakash, in-charge of the BJP’s election campaign in 52 constituencies in and around Kanpur.

When asked about the possible job losses due to closing down of the abattoirs, he said the Centre and the State government will take adequate steps to prevent this. “The Centre is already providing subsidies for cattle shelters. The tanning industry can sustain itself with the leather of dead buffaloes as it did in the past,” he added.

While 80 per cent of workers in mechanised slaughterhouses are Dalits and Muslims, more than 90 per cent of the workers in tanning units belong to these communities.

Note ban impact

“Due to demonetisation, the cycle of our business has stopped. Farmers did not sell their animals as the traders had no money to pay. The slaughtering in slaughterhouses also decreased marginally. Dalits who would remove the skin have also been rendered jobless. In the last three months, most of the units here have stopped working. There were no skins available; also most of us could not pay our workers,” said Hafizur Rahman (Babu Bhai) President of Kanpur’s Small Tanners’ Association.

The Association’s Secretary General N Jamal said the industry’s growth was a negative 20 per cent in the last one year. “It was showing 20 per cent growth in 2012-13,” he said.

The pollution ruse

The BJP had launched a campaign against tanning units in 2012; during her Ganga Samagra Yatra, current Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti had protested against the pollution created by tanning units. “The waste water from tanning units are flowing to the river. They are not ready to treat it though there is a water treatment plant here,” said Mukund Mishra, a BJP leader in Kanpur.

Babu Bhai, however, said the allegation is mischievous and misleading. “The State government is not ready to operate the treatment plant. The case is in the National Green Tribunal,” he said.

Workers in the factory are also agitated. “The BJP targeting tanning units as the workers here are mostly Dalits and Muslims. These units are mainlly owned by Muslims. We also have the right to live,” said Sunil Yadav, a worker in one of the tanning units.

‘Mere gimmicks’

Alok Gupta, a supplier of machinery to the factories, says the BJP has been indulging in political gimmickry. “I have faced huge losses in the last three months. The BJP is using pollution, slaughtering and cattle trade as a way to polarise voters,” Gupta said.

A functionary in one of the big meat exporters’ unit in the area hoped that the BJP’s vision will be as hollow as its promises during 2014. “UP’s meat exporting units get business worth ₹16,000 crore a year. This is from buffalo meat. This attack on our livelihood will help the BSP politically,” he said.

Published on February 14, 2017

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