, BHOPAL, Jan 3 – Slaughtering a cow in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh could attract a seven-year jail term in the latest tightening of laws in the Hindu-majority country where the animals are considered sacred.
Madhya Pradesh, which is ruled by the Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), is to introduce the penalty for the killing of cows and also the sale or possession of beef, a spokesman for the central state told AFP on Tuesday.
“It will soon come into force through an official notification,” he said.
Many other Indian states have also introduced various jail terms for cow slaughter in recent years in a trend seen as reflecting radical Hindu views and anti-Muslim sentiment.
Madhya Pradesh minister for culture and public relations Laxmikant Sharma hailed the law as a “dream come true” and said the state was committed to “enforcing the provisions of the act in letter and spirit”.
The animal has a central place in Hindu religious rituals as well as free rein to roam the streets – scenes familiar to anyone who has visited India.
Critics say cow protection laws deliberately target Muslims, who tend to be the butchers, fuelling religious tensions that explode periodically in India with deadly consequences.
Violence erupted in the state of Himachal Pradesh in 2010 when a Muslim butcher killed a cow in a fit of rage after it had failed to give milk for more than three years.
Hindu protesters damaged two mosques in response, setting the doors of one of them on fire.