Senior government official says there's no ban on sacrificing animals during Islamic holiday Eid al Adha after ruckus over a government order that asked law enforcers to stop sacrifice of cows, calves, camels and other animals.

A Kashmiri Muslim livestock vendor feeds his flock of sheep as he waits for customers at a market ahead of the festival of Eid al Adha in Srinagar, India-administered Kashmir, on July 16, 2021.
A Kashmiri Muslim livestock vendor feeds his flock of sheep as he waits for customers at a market ahead of the festival of Eid al Adha in Srinagar, India-administered Kashmir, on July 16, 2021. (AP)

Indian authorities in disputed Kashmir have said there is no ban on the sacrifice of animals during the upcoming Islamic Eid al Adha holiday, a day after law enforcers were ordered to stop the sacrifice of cows, calves, camels and other animals.

That order caused an uproar in the already volatile Muslim-majority India-administered region with an association of groups of Muslim scholars calling it "arbitrary" and "unacceptable."

GL Sharma, a senior government official, said on Friday the earlier communication was "misconstrued," and the government had been seeking proper transportation of animals and the prevention of cruelty during the Muslim festival.

"The letter was sent to enforcement agencies to enforce the laws of the Animal Welfare Board and it is at the time there is mass slaughter of animals to prevent cruelty on animals," Sharma said, according to the local news portal The Kashmir Walla

"This is not a ban on slaughter and sacrifice."

'Discriminatory order'

A government communication addressed to civil and police authorities in the region on Thursday asked them to stop "illegal killing/sacrifices of cows/calves, camels & other animals," citing animal welfare laws.

Muslims traditionally mark Eid al Adha, or Feast of Sacrifice, by offering special prayers and slaughtering livestock, usually a goat, sheep, a cow or a camel, to commemorate Prophet Ibrahim’s test of faith. 

The meat of the sacrificed animals is shared among family and friends and poor people who cannot afford to sacrifice animals.

The association of Muslim scholars, Muttahida Majlis-e-Ulema, said in a statement that "the sacrifice of permitted animals, including bovines" on Eid al Adha "is an important tenet of religion on this day."

It asked the government to immediately revoke the "discriminatory order" that is "unacceptable to Muslims of the state as they directly infringe upon their religious freedom and their personal law."

The government order also triggered some outrage on social media.

Sentiment against Indian rule

Generally, cows are considered sacred in Hindu-majority India, and slaughtering them or eating beef is illegal or restricted across much of the country. 

Despite a ban on cow slaughter in Kashmir, beef is widely available across much of its Muslim-majority areas.

This year’s holiday falls on July 21-23 in the region.

Sentiment against Indian rule runs deep in Kashmir, where many Muslim residents seek independence or unification with Pakistan, which controls the other part of the region. 

Both nuclear-armed rivals claim the territory in its entirety.

Kashmiri Muslims fear that the Indian government led by Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi has begun to alter Kashmir's demography and identity after stripping the region's semi-autonomy in 2019 and annexing it. 

One shopkeeper in the main city of Srinagar, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the order was a new sign of "anti-Muslim policies being forced on Kashmir."

Residents say they fear reprisals for expressing political views since the region's special status was revoked in 2019.

Lynching by extremist Hindu groups

Since Modi's ascendance to power in 2014, India has seen a series of mob attacks on minority groups. 

Most have involved so-called cow vigilantes from extremist Hindu groups. 

They have usually targeted Muslims, who make up 14 percent of India's nearly 1.4 billion people. Hindus account for about 80 percent of the population.

The victims have been accused of either smuggling cows for slaughter or possessing beef. 

At least two dozen people have been killed in such attacks.

Source: AP