What Living Near An Illegal Slaughterhouse Really Means

by Swati Goel Sharma - May 21, 2020 11:12 AM +05:30 IST
What Living Near An Illegal Slaughterhouse Really MeansA view of an illegal meat unit in a residential colony in West Champaran, Bihar. (Picture shared by a resident) 
  • “It’s like living in hell,” a resident, Akhlaq Khan, said.

This correspondent recently reported about a case in Bihar’s West Champaran district, where a man named Afroz Khan was allegedly assaulted by some butchers for objecting to their illegal meat trade in his colony.

According to Afroz Khan’s statement given to the police while he was recovering in a hospital, he was attacked by a butcher’s knife when he confronted a group in the colony for slaughtering cows — illegally and in full public view — and selling their meat.

An injured Afroz Khan.
An injured Afroz Khan.

The statement said that he had informed the police several times in the past, but there had been no action.

After the attack, 23 residents of the colony — Mohalla Kalibagh in Ward number 12 of Bettiah town — signed on a statement and sent it to the district police chief on WhatsApp.

The statement said that there is a group that openly slaughters cows in the colony and throws the blood, excreta, and meat and bone pieces into the drains. In the statement, they appealed to the police to put an end to it. The residents also cited fear of communal violence asking for immediate police action.

Bihar has a law against the slaughter of cows, which many Hindus consider sacred, since the 1950s. Prohibition of cow slaughter is part of the Constitution as a Directive Principle.

Afroz’s younger brother Akhlaq Khan was one of the signatories. In the next few days, he showed this correspondent live videos of the slaughter taking place right across his house.

A view of an illegal meat unit in Mohalla Kalibagh in West Champaran, Bihar.
A view of an illegal meat unit in Mohalla Kalibagh in West Champaran, Bihar.

It’s not clear whether it is because of multiple appeals for action that this correspondent made on Twitter, tagging the district magistrate and Member of Parliament Sanjay Jaiswal, or because of the letter to the police chief by residents, but the local police recently raided the illegal meat units and got them closed down. Several residents shared the development with this correspondent.

While it’s yet to be seen if the crackdown puts an end to the illegal meat trade in the colony forever, what the residents have said in the past few days about living in close vicinity of a slaughterhouse has been quite a revelation.

“It’s like living in hell,” Akhlaq, who works as a tailor, said during a phone conversation.

The butchers begin work early, around 7 am. This means that the sight of a cow cut into two halves is what residents are forced to see soon after they wake up.

“Many cows are pregnant when brought for slaughter. The butchers pull out the foetus and throw it in the drain. It’s sickening,” said Akhlaq.

A resident, Prabhu (name changed), who spoke over the phone on the condition of anonymity, said that an unbearable stench pervades in the colony.

A view of an illegal meat unit in Mohalla Kalibagh in West Champaran, Bihar.
A view of an illegal meat unit in Mohalla Kalibagh in West Champaran, Bihar.

Prabhu shared pictures of ventilators in his house covered with tin sheets. “This is how we try to keep the stench to a minimum,” he said. “But it means that the house gets no air. We feel suffocated. Over the years, however, we have got used to it.”

The streets are constantly littered with pieces of bone and flesh. Children step on them and stray dogs feed on them. The drains are almost always clogged with the slaughter waste, said Prabhu.

The biggest disadvantage of living in a colony with such a meat unit, however, is that no municipality worker or government official is willing to enter, say residents.

“Sanitary workers skip our colony during their morning cleaning routine,” said another resident, Mushtaq (name changed on request).

“Let alone sanitary workers, not even mechanics and plumbers come here. We become miserable if there is any emergency situation in the house. We just don’t find anybody to fix things,” he said.

A clogged drain in Mohalla Kalibagh in West Champaran, Bihar.
A clogged drain in Mohalla Kalibagh in West Champaran, Bihar.

Akhlaq said Fridays are particularly difficult, as the group slaughters more on a Friday than on any other day.

“If they butcher three cows each on regular days, this number jumps to 20 on Fridays. The streets get crowded by outsiders. The crowd is often unruly. Our women do no feel safe at all. They don’t step out of the house all day,” he said.

There is always a looming threat of communal violence, say residents.

“There have been several small and big fights over cow slaughter. Sometimes, when people are drinking together, one of them mentions it and the other side comes to blows,” said Mushtaq.

“God forbid, if any violence flares up, we would be the biggest losers.”

“What will happen to them [butchers]? Nothing. They have anyway become obese living off easy money.”

Akhlaq said that meat of a cow easily fetches Rs 6,000-Rs 7,000. The butchers, he said, have been using the hefty profits to bribe the police into inaction for years.

“Most cops take bribes, save for one thana in-charge who was posted here for some five years ago. During his tenure, all this illegal activity had come to a halt. Since that time, however, things have been bad,” he said.

Residents, including the Muslims, also say that cow slaughter hurt their sentiments, even though they mostly take it up as a civic and law and order issue with the local cops.

“I won’t lie sister, we do eat mutton. But we don’t touch meat of a cow. We respect the sentiments of our non-Muslims brothers and feel equally bad when we see a cow slaughter happening right under our nose,” said Akhlaq.

Pieces of meat lying in the street in Mohalla Kalibagh in West Champaran, Bihar.
Pieces of meat lying in the street in Mohalla Kalibagh in West Champaran, Bihar.

As this correspondent has shown through several past reports, voices of residents living in close vicinity of illegal slaughterhouses and meat shops, particularly Muslims, get little space in the discourse around illegal meat trade.

Read the reports here and here.

Among other cases, Swarajya reported that in Uttar Pradesh’s Muslim-dominated Aadh village, residents clashed with construction workers on the site and got a meat plant being set up in their village, shelved.

“The meat plant would have been a disaster for us,” the village’s pradhan, Mohammad Shaukeen, said.

The Left-wing writers who dominate public discourse through the media and academics always turn any discussion on illegal meat trade in India into a Muslim rights issue, by taking advantage of the fact that this largely illegal trade primarily involves Muslims.

Voices of dissenting Muslims, who complain about such illegal units are, unsurprisingly, ignored.

When the newly-formed Uttar Pradesh government in 2017 led by Yogi Adityanath announced that all illegal slaughterhouses and meat shops in the state would be shut down, the same commentators panned the decision in the media.

They described it as a move against Muslims, but is it really so? Think about the woes of the residents of Mohalla Kalibagh and decide.

Swati Goel Sharma is a senior editor at Swarajya. She tweets at @swati_gs.

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