NEW DELHI -- Beef has fallen off the menus of Mumbai, India's commercial hub, and other parts of western Maharashtra state where anyone found selling or possessing the world's favorite red meat could now face jail time of up to five years.
Maharashtra's blanket ban on beef comes with Indian President Pranab Mukherjee's ratifying a bill nearly 20 years after it was passed by the state assembly in Mumbai.
On Mar. 2, the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi informed the Maharashtra state government that the president had given consent to the long-pending bill that extends the ban on cow slaughter to bulls and bullocks.
Thanking President Mukherjee, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who belongs to Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), tweeted, "Our dream of [a] ban on cow slaughter becomes a reality now."
According to Kirit Somaiya, the BJP's leader in Maharashtra who spearheaded demands for the beef ban to be ratified, the Fadnavis government that came to power in October had vigorously lobbied Modi's national government on the matter. State governments formed by other parties had "sat on the bill for years", he said.
Hindus make up over 80% of India's population of 1.25 billion, and worship the cow as a maternal symbol. A number of groups close to Modi's BJP oppose cow slaughter.
Beef for consumption by non-Hindus in Maharashtra is sold by specially licensed shops and illegal operators. The ban is the toughest move by any Indian state so far since the law provides for a jail term of up to five years and a maximum fine of 10,000 rupees ($160.6). Beef traders in Maharashtra, mostly Muslims, now face losing their livelihood.
The ban ruffled feathers on social media. Farhan Akhtar, a Bollywood actor, director and singer, tweeted, "So now in Maharashtra you can have a beef with someone, but you can't have beef with someone."
"If I was to go to someone's house for dinner and they served me a steak, would I automatically become an accessory to the crime?" asked Sidhartha Mallya, the son of liquor baron Vijay Mallya.
"Where's the beef?" tweeted the renowned author Shobhaa De. "I am willing to face five years in jail to defend the right of beef eaters in Maharashtra."