NEW DELHI Uttar Pradesh must immediately re-issue licences to abattoirs closed in a recent crackdown led by Hindu hardliners that angered the country's Muslim minority, a court ruled on Friday.
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, a Hindu priest who has in the past been accused of fiery anti-Muslim rhetoric, ordered the closure of unlicenced slaughter houses after he was appointed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in March.
The crackdown was welcomed by right-wing Hindu groups who want to end the slaughter of cows, considered holy in Hinduism, but hit the Muslim community hard. The minority accounts for almost a fifth of Uttar Pradesh's population and dominates the meat industry.
The election of Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2014 has emboldened many Hindu groups to press harder for protection of the cow, and several Muslims transporting cattle have been killed by vigilante groups.
India's history is pockmarked by bloody Hindu-Muslim communal clashes.
Allahabad High Court ruled on Friday that the state should start re-issuing licences to the abattoirs in Uttar Pradesh, allowing them to re-open.
"The court has instructed the government to renew the licence of all the slaughter houses and also allow butchers to start business in India," B.K. Singh, a lawyer representing 800 meat shop owners, told Reuters.
Many of the closed meat shops were unlicensed after their permits had lapsed under the previous government. Most of the beef produced in India comes from buffalo rather than cattle.
(Reporting by Rupam Jain and Tommy Wilkes; Editing by Malini Menon)