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When An Indian Judge Protected Muslims’ Right To Perform Ritual Of Sacrifice On Eid al Azha

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Eid al Azha (also known as Bakrid) is being celebrated in India and Pakistan today. In this connection, I may narrate a story.
This incident happened soon after I was elevated a Judge of the Allahabad High Court in 1991. A petition was filed before me a few days before Bakrid by a lawyer belonging to a right wing Hindu group praying that I should pass an order prohibiting slaughter of buffaloes by Muslims on the occasion of Bakrid as a ‘qurbani’ (sacrifice).

Now poor Muslims often cannot afford to sacrifice a goat, as it is too expensive. So sometimes at least seven of them get together and collectively buy and sacrifice a buffalo, as the per head cost is less than singly sacrificing a goat, and so can be afforded. It is believed among Muslims that the spiritual benefit for doing so is the same as slaughtering a goat.

I asked the learned counsel why I should pass such an order. He replied that buffalo is the ‘sawaari’ of Lord Yamraj, the Hindu god of death who comes on a buffalo with a rope when one dies, to tie one and take one away. So slaughtering buffaloes hurts the religious feelings of the Hindus.

I said ‘chooha’ (mouse) is the sawaari of Lord Ganesh. Should I also prohibit killing of mice? There are numerous Hindu gods and goddesses each having some animal as a ‘sawaari’. Should I prohibit killing of all those animals ?

There is a law against slaughter of cows in UP called the UP Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act, 1955, and there is also a law against killing of wildlife, called the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 made by the Indian Parliament. But there is no law against the slaughter of buffaloes.

I told the lawyer that I will only enforce the law, and not sentiments, and having said this I dismissed the petition.

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