India's leather industry fears Hindu-inspired proposal to ban cow slaughter

Posted: Friday, August 29, 2003

CALCUTTA, India (AP) India's leather industry is worried about the ruling party's effort to ban the slaughter of cows nationwide. The cow is sacred to most of India's Hindus, who make up 85 percent of the population.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, which heads the federal coalition, wants to ban cow slaughter. Last week, coalition partners forced postponement of such a bill but the party plans another attempt.

Under India's secular constitution, only state governments can currently impose such bans and few have done so. Most states do forbid sale of beef, except in big cities.

The nation includes 120 million Muslims and 20 million Christians. Leather exports are valued at $2 billion a year, and the industry employs about 2.5 million Indians.

Leather producers say they fear continuing pressure from Hindu nationalists in the run-up to state elections at the end of the year.

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