When An Indian Judge Protected Muslims’ Right To Perform Ritual Of Sacrifice On Eid al Azha
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.
Markandey Katju is a former judge of the Supreme Court of India. He was also the Chairman of the Press Council of India.