Mumbai region buffalo meat strike launched over police harassment

By Raghavendra Verma, in New Delhi

- Last updated on GMT

Buffalo meat supplies have stopped after an indefinite strike was called by butchers and traders
Buffalo meat supplies have stopped after an indefinite strike was called by butchers and traders

Related tags Buffalo meat Beef

Buffalo meat supplies in the Indian state of Maharashtra, which includes Mumbai, have stopped after an indefinite strike was called by butchers and traders to protest against the alleged harassment by Hindu religious groups.

“Since [last] Saturday we are not getting any [buffalo] meat supplies and we may have to face penalties from our clients,”​ one buffalo meat exporter in Mumbai, who did not want to be identified, told GlobalMeatNews​.

An overwhelmingly large proportion of Indian buffalo meat traders belong to the minority Muslim community, who are increasingly uneasy at the number of hardline Hindus in the national and Maharashtra state administration.

This nervousness began with the election of the Hindu nationalist BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) government in national elections last May (2014), following policy promises to restrict buffalo meat trades – disliked by some Hindus who oppose any kind of bovine slaughtering on religious grounds. But a 14% rise in exports of Indian buffalo meat between April and October 2014 allayed some of these fears.

However, in the subsequent state assembly elections held in Maharashtra in October 2014, the BJP defeated the incumbent Congress party to rule the state, along with another Hindu grouping the Shiv Sena. Rauf Qureshi, secretary of Beef Merchants’ Association, in the city of Nashik, north-east of Mumbai, alleged that within days of the new government taking over, the harassment started.

“Almost every day there is an instance of our cattle vehicles and drivers being attacked by Hindu religious groups,”​ Qureshi told GlobalMeatNews​. “Sometimes they are set on fire and recently a driver suffered serious burns injuries.”

Old buffaloes for slaughter are bought from farmers at markets that operate every 40 to 50km in the state, said Qureshi. They are brought to abattoirs in vehicles, which can be stopped by the police if more than six animals are cramped in one lorry under state animal welfare rules.
 
But Qureshi alleged that the police (controlled by the state) are targeting drivers, while failing to take action against the attacking gangs.

Maharashtra has only nine out of the 56 abattoirs government-approved for exports, but according to Qureshi, the state has significant local demand for buffalo meat: “Three hundred buffaloes are slaughtered every day just in the Nashik district,”​ he said.

Buffalo meat is an important meal for local diets as it is cheap. According to Qureshi, in the local market in Nashik, it costs US$1.60 per kg in comparison to US$2.60 for chicken and US$8 for mutton. Following the strike, the prices of mutton and chicken have risen in the state, he said.

Representatives of local meat traders have been petitioning their respective district administrations for action to prevent the harassment and, according to Qureshi, the strike is expected to last eight to 10 days. Supplies of frozen meat from other Indian states have not yet been affected.

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