At cattle markets in Karnataka’s Mandya, a refrain: ‘Anti-slaughter Act has killed an entire economy’

EVERY FRIDAY, the cattle market in Channarayapatna town, located in Hassan and bordering the Mandya region of Karnataka, sees farmers from across the region gathered to buy and sell cattle.

On sale are a mix — cows that produce milk, young and old draught breeds of cows and oxes used for farming, bulls and buffaloes.

Seated on a stone in the market holding a pair of the Hallikar breed of cattle (a draught breed used for farming) is Somme Gowda, a farmer from K R Pet in Mandya, who says he was here at 6 am when the market opened, and five hours later, has not been able to sell his cattle.

“The buyers are quoting Rs 5,000 for the pair… We are expecting at least Rs 15,000,” says the 55-year-old. “The entire cattle trade market has collapsed after the government introduced the law banning cattle slaughter in the state.”

Somme Gowda’s problems are compounded due to the high price of fodder. “We are in a state of despair over keeping this cattle. In the end, we have to give it away for whatever rate the middleman quotes.”

Across the cattle market, there is a consensus that the Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Act, 2020, introduced by the BJP government, has delivered a crippling blow to farmers by virtually criminalising the trade of cattle and creating an environment of fear.

“There are no takers for cattle that used to go to slaughter houses. The Muslims traders have almost disappeared,” says Anne Gowda, a farmer from Hassan who purchased a pair of a cow and an ox for Rs 42,000. Noting that the Hallikar breed are going for as little as Rs 5,000, he adds: “In the sheep market, small goats sell for Rs 5,000.”

Referring to the tall promises of the BJP government – both at the state and in the Centre — Anne Gowda says: “The government is thinking of the future of the country, which is good. But they have not done anything for farmers… barring depositing Rs 6,000 in our accounts (under the Pradhan Mantri Kissan Sanman Nidhi Yojana). But the cost of feed, fertilisers is too high.”

What has followed in the wake of the cattle Act is “a lot of hide and seek (read smuggling)”, says Anne Gowda. As traders cite “risk” to quote low prices, it leaves farmers like him or middlemen few options but to pay huge amounts to transporters to take cattle to slaughterhouses in other states, like Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

Recently, on the intervening night of March 31 and April 1, Idrees Pasha, a 42-year-old driver of a mini truck transporting 16 cattle — sourced from the Thendekere Cattle Market held on Mondays in the K R Pet region (around 30 km from Channarayapatna) – died after he was attacked by right-wing cow vigilantes, enforcing the cattle slaughter ban of their own accord.

It was the first incident of death of a cattle transporter at the hand of cow vigilantes since the 2020 Act came into force.

Pasha left behind four young children, aged 6, 4, 2 and a three-month-old. “I am trying to fill the vacuum left by the death of their father, but I will always be their uncle,” says Pasha’s brother Yunus, 35, at Mandya town.

While the police have arrested Puneeth Kerehalli, a known right-wing vigilante, and four associates for the incident, Pasha’s family still has unanswered questions regarding how he died. Police have unofficially said it was possibly due to a heart attack, perhaps brought on by tasers used by the cow vigilantes, and said they are awaiting a full forensic report.

Says Yunus: “Idrees did not drive cattle transport vehicles usually. It was a one-off thing. Assuming they were in the wrong — which they were not, and they had documents — what right does anybody have to take law into their own hands and assault them?” He repeats that the assaulters demanded Rs 2 lakh to let Pasha and others go.

Yunus adds that the Act had broken a social contract that existed between farmers of all communities and cattle traders. “Do the people who allow all this not understand the reality on the ground? In the name of protection of Gau Mata, they are killing people and ruining the lives of farmers. The maximum sellers are from the majority community (Hindus). They want to sell cattle when they stop producing milk or fall ill. They bring the cattle to the market themselves or call middlemen. Now all that has collapsed.”

Coupled with other hardships faced by farmers, this is a key point of discussion in places like the Channarayapatna cattle market. Swamy Gowda, a middleman, says: “Many traditional cattle markets are shutting down. There are few merchants to buy cattle.”

Agreeing with others that the Rs 6,000 in accounts hardly matters when “we are spending Rs 60,000 on living costs”, Swamy Gowda swears to vote for the Congress or the JD(S) – Hassan is a stronghold of the Deve Gowdas, the JD(S) first family — but not the BJP.

Swamy Gowda questions the BJP government’s “publicity” push, and the communal polarisation under it, getting support from others at the market. “There was only one (A B) Vajpayee. The present government is all about publicity. What is the cost of fuel, the cost of LPG under this government?… And, even Muslims are citizens of this country. Do they not eat the food of this earth? In this region, they are a part of our lives,” Swamy Gowda says.

In February this year, Siddaramaiah, former Congress chief minister and Leader of the Opposition in the outgoing Assembly, raised the issue of farmers’ distress on account of the cattle Act in the House. “The government claims that the ban on cattle slaughter has benefited the ecosystem, but it has done nothing. Farmers would sell cattle earlier if these were unproductive, but that cannot be done now. The cattle cannot be sold because a case will be filed against the farmer,” Siddaramaiah said, adding that the cow slaughter law had “a hidden agenda and a communal agenda”.

JD(S) legislator Sa Ra Mahesh says “great injustice” is being done to farmers on account of harassment for documents. As for gaushalas for abandoned cattle, he says, “They do not feed the cattle there.”

The K R Pet or Krishna Raja Pet Assembly constituency from where many farmers visit the cattle market at Channarayapatna, and which also hosts the Thendekere cattle market on Mondays, was the first-ever seat won by the BJP in the Vokkaliga-dominated Mandya region, comprising seven Assembly seats.

While K C Narayana Gowda won from K R Pet in 2013 and 2018 on a JD(S) ticket, he defected to the BJP after the last Assembly elections – one of the 17 who did so from JD(S) and Congress ranks, helping the BJP form the government after toppling a Congress-JD(S) coalition.

In the bypoll held in December 2019, Narayana Gowda won on the BJP ticket, but by a narrow margin of 9,731 votes, and was made a minister.

In 2008, K R Pet was won by the Congress.

The Channarayapatna Town where the cattle market is held on Fridays falls in the Shravanabelagola Assembly constituency, which has been won four times consecutively since 2004 by the JD(S).

The current JD(S) MLA, C N Balakrishna, is related to the Deve Gowdas.

The Act

The Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Act, 2020, bans the slaughter of “cow, calf of a cow and bull, bullock and he or she buffalo”. The only exemptions under the law are buffaloes above the age of 13, after they are certified by a competent authority, plus cattle used in medical research, cattle certified for slaughter by a veterinarian to prevent the spread of any disease, and very sick cattle.

Arrests can be carried out without court warrants. The punishment is up from three to seven years of jail or fines ranging from Rs 50,000 to Rs 5 lakh, or both.

For illegal transport of cattle, sale of meat, and purchase or disposal of cattle for slaughter, punishment ranges from a prison term of three to five years and a fine of Rs 50,000 to Rs 5 lakh.


  • Adam Gray

    Adam Gray is an experienced journalist with a passion for breaking news and delivering it to the masses. With over a decade of experience in the field, he has covered everything from local stories to national events, earning a reputation for his accuracy, reliability, and attention to detail. As a reporter, Adam is always on the lookout for the next big story, and his dedication to uncovering the truth has earned him the respect of his peers and readers alike. When he's not chasing down leads, Adam can be found poring over the latest headlines, always on the lookout for the next big scoop. Contact [email protected]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *