The Indian government has ordered authorities in Kashmir to ban the slaughter of all animals in the Muslim majority region for the Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha.
The order by the Hindu nationalist government, released late Thursday, is likely to heighten tensions in Indian Kashmir where anxiety has deepened since New Delhi revoked its special autonomous status in August 2019.
The Himalayan region is divided between India and Pakistan, and the New Delhi government has put the territory it controls under direct rule.
Citing animal welfare laws, the government’s Animal Welfare Board of India ordered police and authorities to “take all preventive measures” to halt the “illegal killing of animals and to take stringent action against offenders”.
Cows are considered sacred by many Hindus and their slaughter is banned in the region and many Indian states. The new order extends the ban to all animals for the first time.
Muslims traditionally kill a goat, sheep or cow for Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of the Sacrifice, and the Muttahida Majlis-e-Ulema, a coalition of Muslim religious bodies in Kashmir, expressed “strong resentment” at the government move.
The Eid holiday is to be marked from July 21 to July 23.
The group said in a statement that the sacrifice of animals to honour the Prophet Ibrahim “is an important tenet of religion on this day”.
The MMU urged the government to revoke the “arbitrary” order that is “unacceptable to Muslims of the state as they directly infringe upon their religious freedom and their personal law”.
The government order also triggered some outrage on social media.
One shopkeeper in the main city of Srinagar, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the order was a new sign of “anti-Muslim policies being forced on Kashmir”.
Residents say they fear reprisals for expressing political views since the region’s special status was revoked in 2019.