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SLPP approves proposal banning cow slaughter in Sri Lanka

The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), led by Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, approved a proposal banning cow slaughter in the country, in a move that further showcases the regime’s Sinhala Buddhist nationalist sentiments.

Rajapaksa made this decision in his capacity as Minister of Buddha Sasana, Religious and Cultural Affairs, though beef imports would reportedly remain unaffected.

When discussing the proposal, Rajapaksa said, “This is a proposal that exists since the time of nationalist leader Anagarika Dharmapala. No government was able to legislate against it.”

Dharmapala is known as one of the leaders of Buddhist nationalist revival and his policies and influence shaped what we now know of as the Sinhala Buddhist nationalism that leads to repression of other groups on the island. He was hostile to other religions and believed that Buddhism in Sri Lanka was threatened with extinction, making the ascendancy of Sinhala Buddhism his mission.

"This bright, beautiful island was made into a paradise by the Aryan Sinhalese before its destruction was brought about by the barbaric vandals. Its people did not know irreligion ... Christianity and polytheism [i.e. Hinduism] are responsible for the vulgar practices of killing animals, stealing, prostitution, licentiousness, lying and drunkenness ... The ancient, historic, refined people, under the diabolism of vicious paganism, introduced by the British administrators, are now declining slowly away," Dharmapala is quoted in a book by Anand Guruge, published by Sri Lanka's Ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs, in 1965.

Thre are fears the move will particularly impact on Muslims across the island, as well as other communities such as Christians and Hindus from oppressed castes who eat beef.

This legislation has parallels to those proposed by Hindu nationalist governments in India, where anti-Muslim sentiment also runs rampant. In 2017, the Indian Supreme Court suspended a law that would have banned the sale of cattle for slaughter across the nation. 

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