April 1, 2015 / 3:06 PM / 4 years ago

Indian beef traders call off strike, look to courts

A butcher cuts up portions of beef for sale in an abattoir at a wholesale market in Mumbai May 11, 2014. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

MUMBAI (Reuters) - Faced with dwindling business, Indian beef traders called off a month-long strike against a beef ban on Wednesday and decided to mount a legal challenge to the government.

Maharashtra, India’s second most populous state, extended a ban on killing cows to bulls and bullocks in early March.

Cows are considered sacred by many Indians, but beef is eaten by some poor and lower-caste Hindus as well as by Christians and Muslims. Campaigns to protect cattle are often used to vilify religious minorities.

“We have called off the strike as no solution was coming and our families have been suffering,” said Mohammed Ali Qureshi, president of the Bombay Suburban Beef Dealers Association.

“But we will not stop here and will go to court against this ban which has rendered several thousand people jobless.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has backed the clamp down on the beef trade, which is run mostly by Muslims. Other states ruled by the Hindu nationalist BJP, such as Jharkhand and Haryana, have also tightened curbs.

“Our children were dying of hunger because of the strike. We had no option but to resume to work,” said Mohammed Shareef Qureshi, a supplier at Deonar, the site of India’s biggest abattoir on the outskirts of Mumbai.

About 250 buffaloes were slaughtered in Deonar on Wednesday as against 400-450 cattle daily before the ban was imposed, president Qureshi said.

Early this week, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said the government would use “all our might” to ban cow slaughter.

Editing by Ruth Pitchford

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