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A People's Constitution$
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Rohit De

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780691174433

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691174433.001.0001

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The Case of the Invisible Butchers

The Case of the Invisible Butchers

Economic Rights and Religious Rites

(p.123) 3 The Case of the Invisible Butchers
A People's Constitution

Rohit De

Princeton University Press

This chapter explores the transformation of the political agitation over cow protection by the enactment of the Constitution. Although the debate over cow protection had always been framed in terms of the religious rights of Hindus and Muslims, the Constitution met the demands for cow protection on ostensibly neutral economic grounds and laid it down in Article 48 as a directive principle of state policy. After partition and democratic elections, the new elected state governments of north India enacted strict laws prohibiting cow slaughter and criminalizing the consumption of beef. The chapter then looks at a writ petition brought by three thousand Muslim butchers—possibly India's first class-action suit—that challenged these bans through a language of economic rights rather than religious freedom. Ultimately, it addresses how religious freedom, minority rights, and political mobilization were transformed through the emergence of the Constitution as a site for politics.

Keywords:   cow protection, religious rights, cow slaughter, beef consumption, writ petition, Muslim butchers, economic rights, religious freedom, minority rights, political mobilization

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