The controversial Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Bill, 2010, which is now awaiting approval by President Pratibha Patil, has taken centrestage in Karnataka. The governor, HR Bharadwaj, expressed his displeasure over the bill and forwarded it to the President for a decision. Peeved by this, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has announced week-long protests from September 1.
Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa is adamant that the new legislation should go through and has even directed the state's legal team to gear up for any issues that may come up.
However, minorities in the state are up in arms against the move and have vowed to oppose it. Against this backdrop, interestingly, the only Muslim minister in the BJP government, Dr Mumtaz Ali, says that Muslims should not point a finger at the act.
Dr Ali, minister for wakf and minorities welfare, in an interview with Vicky Nanjappa, says a ban on cow slaughter does not mean that people will not survive.
'Cow slaughter bill is not anti-Islam'
Do you have a different opinion when compared to your cabinet colleagues on the cow slaughter bill?
I am a part of the government and cannot have a different opinion about it. I am in agreement with what the government has done regarding the Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Bill of 2010.
There is talk that this bill is anti-Islam. Do you subscribe to that view?
It is not anti-Islam.
Looking the number of protests that are taking place in Karnataka following the introduction of this bill, what in your view are the consequences if it goes through?
The only consequence it will have is on the food habits of some people. For some people this is staple food. However, this cannot be a reason to stop the introduction of such a bill.
'Beef is not the last resort'
But Muslims are most upset with this bill. Being their representative in the government, what is your message to them?
My message is that we cannot oppose this bill. Muslims cannot raise a finger against it. There is a provision in the Constitution which provides for banning cow slaughter. Such an act is already in force in Karnataka since 1964, and the new bill only makes the punishment more stringent. The present bill prescribes stringent punishment.
Some Muslims have made a religious issue out of this bill.
I had said earlier too that this bill is not anti-Islam and the only consequence it would have is on the food habits. Do you think that they will stop surviving if they don't eat beef? No, that will not happen.
There is chicken, mutton, fish and a variety of other non-vegetarian dishes which they can choose from. Beef is not the last resort.
'Yes, there will be unemployment, but we will tackle it'
Is that all what this is about, food habits?
The government has done nothing wrong in going ahead with this bill. However, the introduction of this bill will cause a lot of unemployment among Muslims. I will have talks with my colleagues on this aspect and ensure that the people who lose their jobs due to this act are properly rehabilitated.
But there are Brahmin and Lingayat MLAs and MLCs who are opposing the Bill too.
Brahmins and Lingayats generally oppose beef; it is against their dharma. Then why are some Brahmin and Lingayat MLAs and MLCs opposing this bill? Does such an act augur well for their dharma?
Two years with the BJP, how do you think this government has treated Muslims in Karnataka?
Speaking true to my conscience, the social and economic development of Muslims under the BJP has been excellent.
'The next 3 years will only be better for Muslims'
I have records to show that developmental works for Muslims have been taken up very well. The government has introduced very valuable programmes, which contributed to the economic development of Muslims.
This is something that was not done during the Congress regime. And what they failed to do in 60 years we have done in two. The next three years will only be better for Muslims.
Lastly, what is your view on the mining controversy?
The government has made it clear that it shall not tolerate illegal mining. The state has done what it should have done. The onus is now on the Union government. Why is it not banning the export of ore? They should come forward and take a decision on this.