Muslims in Lucknow had voluntarily given up cow slaughter on Eid-ul-Zuha (Bakrid) almost a century ago, long before the Uttar Pradesh Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act of 1955 was even thought of
The practice that has been kept alive ever since, was also validated by the Sri Dharma Bharat Mahamandal, established in 1887 by Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya, and by Mahatma Gandhi in his letter to the Mumbai edition of the Times of India on September 6, 1919.
Under the leadership of Maulana Abdul Bari Ferangi Mahali, a freedom fighter and prominent figure of the Khilafat Movement along with the Ali brothers, a wave of abstinence from cow slaughter during Bakrid started to build. Previous efforts had also been made by Bari’s ancestors, but were marred time and again.
Penning his conversation with Maulana Bari, Mahatma Gandhi (who referred to Bari as his brother) in his letter also emphasised how the step was unconditional and how the Maulana enjoyed massive following, even though Hindus were unwilling to support the Khilafat movement. And as the Mahatma writes, true to his word, the Maulana after his conversation with Gandhi, started “preaching amongst his followers and friends the necessity of abstaining from cow-killing.” That very day in 1919, Gandhi had also received a telegram from Maulana Bari (that is referred to in the letter) stating:
“In celebration of Hindu-Muslim unity, no cow sacrifices in Ferangi Mahal this Baqreid-Abdul Bari.”
And not just in Ferangi Mahal, a letter to Maulana Bari on January 10, 1920 from the Sri Bharat Dharma Mahamandal thanked him profusely for his “efforts through speech and abstention himself, that in the days of Baqreid there was no cow-killing in Lucknow
A Sufi and an Aalim (scholar), as author and historian, Gail Minault wrote in her book ‘The Khilafat Movement’, Bari had “religious influence over a variety of followers, and a large group of disciples from the Northwest to Bengal to Madras.”
But it was not out of pressure that the unifying step was adopted by Muslims under his leadership. In his speech at a Hindu-Muslim conference on January 15, 1920 in Saharanpur, Maulana Bari had said, “No Hindus, nor Mahatma Gandhi have requested me to stop cow slaughter, but with my own heartfelt desire for unity and not to hurt the sentiments of my Hindu brothers, I have stopped doing so.”
Later, following Bari’s footsteps, some senior members of the Muslim League had also agreed to avoid cow slaughter during Bakrid in other parts of the state too.