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The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) allies in three Christian-majority states of Nagaland, Mizoram and Meghalaya have opposed the central government's new cattle trade and slaughter rules.
The ruling Naga People's Front (NPF) in Nagaland on Tuesday asked the Narendra Modi-led NDA government to desist from imposing restrictions on the dietary habits of the people.
The NPF's Central Executive Council also directed the Shurhozelie Liezietsu-led Nagaland government to take up the matter with the central government so that traditional, religious or customary practices were not infringed upon by any unilateral decision of the central government.
"We have urged the (state) government to advise the central government to desist from imposing restrictions on dietary habits and culinary preferences of the Naga people, and see to it that their social, traditional, religious or customary practices are not infringed due to any unilateral decision of the Centre," NPF Resolution Committee Convener Sebastian Zumvu said.
In Mizoram, the opposition Mizo National Front (MNF), which is one of the constituents of the BJP-led North East Democratic Alliance, also has opposed the central government's notification under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules 2017.
"We will not accept central government's new rules. The people of Mizoram are cent-per-cent beef and pork eaters. They may implement that law in other states but the Mizos will continue to slaughter and eat beef or pork, as it is part of our staple diets," MNF President Pu Zoramthanga told IANS.
However, the two-time Mizoram Chief Minister said that Home Minister Rajnath Singh had told him that the central government would not impose any restrictions on people's choice of food.
On Monday, hundreds of people had taken part in a "Beef Ban Bashing Banquet" during Rajnath Singh's visit to Aizawl, the state capital of Mizoram, as a mark of protest against new rules restricting the sale of cattle for slaughter.
In Meghalaya, it is not only the BJP allies -- the National People's Party (NPP) and the United Democratic Party (UDP) -- which opposed the rules but the party is also facing the heat from its own members, as some of them even quit the BJP over the issue.
In a special session, the Meghalaya Assembly on Monday unanimously passed a government resolution asking the Centre to immediately withdraw the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017, so as to maintain the Constitution's federal and secular character.
Conrad K. Sangma, the lone NPP member in the Lok Sabha, had urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene and direct the Ministry of Environment to de-notify the new rules in the larger interest of people.
In a letter to Modi, Sangma said the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017, imposed a number of restrictions on cattle trade that would have a serious impact on the socio-cultural and economic condition of millions, especially those in the agricultural and related ancillary sectors.
"Imposing unreasonable restrictions on the fundamental right to carry on any trade or occupation under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution will not stand the test of constitutionality," the NPP chief said.
Sangma said the new rules violated the basic right of a person to freedom of choice regarding his food.
UDP legislator Paul Lyngdoh said due to the Centre's notification on cattle trade rules, the federal fabric of the country has been affected.
Over 5,000 BJP workers from Garo Hills region, which has 24 of Meghalaya assembly's 60 seats, have resigned from the party over the issue and many more leaders have threatened to walk out of then BJP if the new rules are not rolled back.