Sunday, October 16, 2016

Constituent Assembly on Cow Slaughter

A healthy Gir Cow, raised in Brazil
It is a raging debate, refusing to go down silently. But this was not the attitude even during the Rule of Islamic Dynasties. The constitution of India expects the Cow, the calves and all other Livestock be protected from Slaughter. It doesn’t force the decision on the State, but sets this expectation on the Govts of the Future, based on the necessity, situations and public opinion. In short, it is a Directive Principle of State Policy and it is duty of successive Govts to create condition conducive for the implementation of these Constitutional Provisions.

Article 48

The State shall endeavour to organise agriculture
and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines
and shall, in particular, take steps for preserving and
improving the breeds, and prohibiting the slaughter, of
cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle.

But it is interesting to learn how this constitutional provision was created. What arguments were placed in favour and against it.

The Article’s journey through the Constituent Assembly

This article never existed in the 1st Draft of Constitution of India as presented by the Constitutional Adviser, Sir B N Rau, on October 30th 1947. It didn’t exist in 2nd Draft of Constitution of India, as published by Drafting Committee chaired by Dr. B R Ambedkar, on February 21, 1948.

Thereafter, sometime between Feb 21, 1948 & March 22, 1948, when the Drafting Committee was inviting objections & suggestions to the draft Constitution, Pandit Thakur Dass Bhargava & Seth Govind Das suggested introduction of a new Article 38-A, into the draft Constitution.

Pandit Thakur Dass Bhargava’s proposed amendment read –

The State shall endeavour to organise agriculture
and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines
and shall, in particular, take steps for preserving and
improving the breeds of cattle, and prohibit the slaughter, of
cow and other useful cattle, specially, milch and draught cattle
and their young stocks.

Seth Govind Das’s proposed amendment read –

The State shall endeavour to organise agriculture
and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines
and shall, in particular, take steps for preserving and
improving the breeds of cattle, and prohibit the slaughter, of
cow. The word ‘Cow’ includes bulls, bullocks,
young stock of genus cow.

The proposed amendment to the Draft Constitution, by way of addition of a new Article was taken up for discussion in the Drafting Committee’s meeting to deliberate on objections and suggestions received till then, on March 24, 1947.

The meeting was chaired by Dr. B R Ambedkar, and attended by members, Maulavi Saiyid Muhammad Saadullah and Shri N Madhava Rao. In addition, Constitutional Adviser Sir B N Rau and his team were present too.

It was decided that this Article involved a question of Policy, and accordingly, it was left to the decision of the Constituent Assembly.

Fundamental Right Vs. Directive Principle

The movers of the amendment originally sought to propose this Article under the Part dealing with Fundamental Rights, under Right to Life. But upon Dr. Ambedkar’s suggestion, the same was proposed under Directive Principle of State Policy.

Debate in Constituent Assembly

The Article was taken up for debate on 24th November 1948. Nine members participated in the speech, apart from Dr. Ambedkar himself. Two were the original proposers of the amendment; three had sought amendments to these amendments and four others.

  1. Pandit Thakur Dass Bhargava
  2. Seth Govind Das
  3. Prof. Shibban Lal Saksena
  4. Shri. Ram Sahai
  5. Chaudhari Ranbir Singh
  6. Dr. Raghu Vira
  7. Shri. R V Dhulekar
  8. Mr. Z H Lari
  9. Syed Muhammad Saiadulla

Following are the key points made by each speaker:

Pandit Thakur Dass Bhargava

1.     Pandit Thakur Dass Bhargava: At the outset, he declared that Dr. B R Ambedkar had drafted the amendment, just like he had drafted amendment to Article 38 (Article 47 in final Constitution), which was about nutrition & health and prohibition on alcohol, intoxicants & drugs. He expressed his desire to include this amendment under Fundamental Rights, but cited Dr. Ambedkar’s suggestion to include this under Directive Principles of State Policy. He explained further that his amendment is sought in three parts:

a.     The agriculture shd be improved along scientific and modern lines
b.     Cattle breed should be improved
c.      Cow & other cattle should be protected from slaughter

He held slaughter of the Cow and other cattle as the key impediment for improvement of Cow Breeds. He highlighted the fact that Cow Slaughter was a recent phenomena in the Indian Subcontinent, that came along with the occupation by British. Historically, neither the native Hindu populations, nor the invaders like Babur, Humayun, Akbar or even Aurangzeb permitted Cow Slaughter. He highlighted that this was owing to the Economic Consideration. He also gave examples of other countries like China, Afghanistan, Burma and even Pakistan where Cow Slaughter was banned then, from an Economic Point of view.

Cow’s importance from nutritional, draught & transportation point of view was exhorted upon. The economic benefit in maintaining even older cattle was supported as the economic value of their produce (of Dung & Urine) was found to be profitable, thereby questioning the very term “useless cattle”

2.     Seth Govind Das: He insisted on complete ban on Cow Slaughter of any kind, irrespective of distinctions like useful and useless cattle He wanted the word Cow to represent Cows, Bulls,
Bullocks and Calves.
 He explained that their Amendment was not being taken under Fundamental

Rights as it dealt only with a Human’s rights and not that of an Animal.

His support for Ban on Cow Slaughter was primarily from Religious & Cultural point of view and secondarily on Economics therein. He disregarded those who denounced religion, especially communists who declared, “religion is the opium of the people”. He said in no uncertain terms, “Swaraj will have no meaning for our people in the absence of the Culture.”

From name of the country, to National Language, to National Script, to National Anthem to Cow Slaughter; he clubbed all these as Cultural questions facing our country.

He highlighted economic and nutritional issue as well, and pointed out that at the time, when milk supply per capita was 56 ounces in New Zealand, 40 in Denmark, 63 in Finland, 61 in Sweden, 49 in Switzerland etc, India’s was only 7 ounces per capita. It was a huge reason behind high Infant Mortality during that time.

He emphasized that instead of prevention of cow slaughter, India must go for complete blanket ban. He gave example of Burma, where Cows above certain age were permitted for slaughter and due to difficulty in ascertaining age, the Law was unable to fulfill its purpose.

In the end he quoted Babur’s comment to Humayun, “Refrain from cow slaughter to win the hearts of the people of Hindustan.”

3.     Prof. Shibban Lal Saksena: He had moved an amendment to the amendment of Pandit Bhargava and Seth Govind Das, but refrained from moving it in the house. However, he chose to place his thoughts on the subject. Like the previous speakers, he too balanced the subject between Religion and Economics. In fact, he improved on the subject by saying that the it is the Economics of Cow which had given it the Religious nature. He asserted that just because something has a religious nature, it doesn’t mean it is bad. Mahatma Gandhi’s favorable views on Ban on Cow Slaughter were quoted as well. An interesting statistic was presented on National Income, at the time, possibly of Rural Section. Out of Rs.22crores per annum, Rs.11cr was derived from the cattle. Such was the dependence and therefore necessity to protect Cows from slaughter. Another interesting statistic he presented was on per capita cattle population, which was 50 cattles per 100 persons in India, when Denmark had 74, USA 71, Canada 80 & New Zealand 150 cattles per 100 persons.

He pointed out that India had a large population of small holding cultivators, and yet, at the time we had mere 16 Bullocks per 100acres.

4.     Shri. Ram Sahai: He refrained from moving his amendment, which was sought under Part III (Fundamental Rights), and decided to go with Pandit Bhargava’s amendment.

5.     Chaudhuri Ranbir Singh: Refrained from moving his amendment. He wanted to participate in the general debate on Pandit Bhargava’s amendment, but was not given time due to unknown reasons.

6.     Dr. Raghu Vira: His primary contention was along religious/cultural lines. He wanted the ban on Cow Slaughter along the ancient Hindu Tradition of sin of Brahma Hatya & Gau Hatya.

7.     Shri. R V Dhulekar: After quoting some lofty religious/cultural ideals, Shri. Dhulekar criticized the Drafting Committee for not considering the Ban on Cow Slaughter under Fundamental Rights, thereby, changing the course of arguments from next speaker.

8.     Mr. Z H Lari: He was the first Muslim to speak on this subject. He was ready to support the amendment if it was clearly stated that ban on cow slaughter was for Religious reasons and that there was no ambiguity left through a clear-cut Ban. In his opinion, the mid-way, the ambiguity on whether there was a Ban or mere prohibition, led to difficulties, where Muslims presuming there is no ban would perform their sacrifices, but would be arrested later. A crucial point he agreed upon was that Islam doesn’t necessarily say that Muslims must sacrifice a Cow.

9.     Syed Muhammad Saiadulla: He agreed to supporting the Ban on Cow Slaughter on Religious grounds. He cited the Holy Quran, saying: La ikraba fid Din, meaning, there ought to be no compulsion in the name of religion.

However, he refused to support the amendment on Economic grounds, citing Cow’s Meat as a cheaper source of meat for Muslims, who he claimed were a poorer bunch. He questioned some of the statistics on Cow Slaughter Pandit Bhargava had shared, as it related to War Period, but Pandit Bhargava corrected that Cow Slaughter was banned during the War.

Following this he began to ridicule the Hindus for themselves selling their Old Cows to Muslims, who gladly took them to slaughter-houses. He went to the extent of saying that there was only 1 Muslim butcher in Shillong and 70 from the Hill tribes. He claimed he himself didn’t eat Cow’s Meat, but in the end opposed the Amendment.

Finally, when the Amendments were put to votes, Seth Govind Das’ amendment was negative, Pandit Thakur Dass Bhargava’s amendment was accepted, as well as addition of Article 38-A was accepted to the Draft Constitution.

An interesting case of Firman against Cow Slaughter in Afghanistan

In 1922, the Ulema as well as King Amanullah Khan of Afghanistan issued Firmans banning slaughter of the Cows. Much like Babur had issued instruction to Humayun through his Wasiyatnama, where he exhorted him to avoid slaughtering cows in order that he gain a place in the heart of the natives as it would being him nearer to the people.
Firmans of the Ulema & King Amanullah in July 1922 banning cow slaughter.
Public Discourse today

The idea behind sharing the Constituent Assembly debates is to help the current generation, us, understand how we must be placing these issues in public domain. We cannot establish these policies based on our emotion. We cannot expect the Prime Minister of India to simply formulate policies because there is a populist voice behind a certain demand. 

We have to decipher our relationship with the Cows. Where do cows stand today in our Society? Have our agricultural targets gone up or gone down? Is the tractor based agricultural practice with volatile oil prices a sustainable way of farming? Is our requirement for nutrition matching?  Is the per capita milk supply in India the best in the world? Have we actually started utilising the aged Cows/Buffaloes into an Economic use, thereby not making them useful for humans again?

And for the muslims, La ikraba fid Din.


  1. Well explained
    Even during Mugal Rules cow slaughtering was banned at least to respect feelings of Hindu community
    But now a days cows are purposely slaughtered to harm Hindu feelings

  2. I think the sentiments of Hindus should be taken into consideration. At the same time, the so-called Go-Rakshaks should not behave like the hooligans.