It all began in 1964 when the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) passed an order for a two-day ban on the working of slaughterhouses and the sale of meat during the Jain festival of Paryushan. In 2004, the Congress and NCP alliance extended this ban to four days. This tradition has been followed since then. “Paryushan is a period of penance where Jains avoid any form of violence, including consumption of green vegetables.” This year the ban was imposed for eight days. The move led to public criticism and forced the Shiv Sena led BMC to reduce the ban to two days.
The ruling party in the state of Maharashtra was divided in its opinion regarding the meat ban. While the Shiv Sena was against it, the BJP supported it. With the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) elections scheduled for 2017 round the corner, both the political parties are doing their best to abide by the demand of their supporters. BJP has the most support among Gujaratis and Jains while the Shiv Sena’s vote bank is the Marathis, who largely eat fish and poultry. Some of the bans opponents referred to BJP as the “Bharatiya Jain Party”, while the Congress ironically, was against the ban. “Though religious sentiments should not be hurt, other communities should not be deprived of their daily meals. We condemn this decision,” was what a member of the Congress said.
Earlier this year, the Maharashtra and Haryana government banned beef in the state. The ban meant that even bulls and bullocks could not be slaughtered for meat. The ban made “possession, transportation and consumption” of beef a punishable offense.This ban led people to question the 41-year-old “seasonal ban” that has been followed impetuously.
The ban did not remain confined to Maharashtra. Other BJP ruled states like Rajasthan, Gujarat, and, Chhattisgarh too have imposed a ban on the sale of meat for varying periods. The ban has been in effect in Rajasthan since 2008; however this year it was extended by one day. The Jammu and Kashmir high court ordered a ban on the sale of beef which led to anger among the locals and political organizations.
A petition was filed in the Mumbai High Court asking for the ban on beef during the festival of Id-ul-Zuha to be lifted, but it was rejected. The ban diminishes the festivities of Id for the poor, with a goat being too expensive to buy. “With each unit of beef out of work, four people have been rendered unemployed. This is the quietest Eid I have seen here. Does it look like a festival for a poor man?” asks Shaifiddin Qureshi, a meat-seller. In the state of Jammu and Kashmir, people chose to celebrate Id by offering the “sacrificial animal” sheep, while some called for a sacrifice of bovines as a mark of protest. Syed Ali Shah Geelani, chairman of a Hurriyat faction tried to maintain peace. “Beef is halal for us.”, he said. “No power in the world can stop us from its use. However, while sacrificing animals on the occasion, a dignified attitude and approach should be adopted.”
The ban not only affects the livelihood of the many, including butchers, farmers and daily wage workers but also the fundamental rights of the people. Many have referred to this as “vegetarian terrorism”. “A bench of justices TS Thakur and Kurian Joseph objected to the manner in which the ban was being enforced saying that it can’t be forced down people’s throats.” The vegetarian and non-vegetarian divide has even affected the real estate market, where the vegetarian home buyers are often given preference.
Pratap Bhanu Mehta in his article in the Indian express, addressed and questioned the reasons put up by political parties and various people to justify the ban. “These bans violate fundamental liberties, erode the secular character of the state, harm the causes of vegetarianism and non-violence they are ostensibly designed to encourage, and display deep disrespect for religion.”
The divide between vegetarians and non-vegetarians has always been used by the political parties to their advantage. The controversial meat ban further exacerbates this divide and can be seen simply as an attempt to regulate even the little aspects of one’s life. Except today, it ceased to limit itself to the “little aspect of one’s life”, it went ahead and eradicated a life from the very face of this earth.
Several young men barged into a man’s home this week to investigate the “meat in his fridge”, after ‘rumors’ doing rounds in the village that the man and his family slaughtered a cow and consumed its meat. Mohammad Akhlaq, a 50-year-old man residing for several decades in his hometown-Dadri, a small place in the state of UP, was lynched to death by a mob of over 50 people. Only 6 of them have been arrested so far. Akhlaq’s son is brutally injuredand extremely critical at the moment, breathing at the behest of a ventilator. The women of the family, abused.
It’s incomprehensible that someone would feel the need to show up at a person’s home unannounced and perform a forensic exam on the meet in their refrigerators, after an alleged announcement on the mics of a nearby temple spreading these rumors. The family members of the victims refuse this outrageous claim outright.
The point is, even if it was beef they consumed, the ‘punishment’ should be in accordance to the law. Murdering someone, brutally murdering someone is no less than a terrorist activity. This wasn’t a mob, they were terrorists.
This is a dark, bleak day in the history of the country. Every single one of us should be ashamed of ourselves, of the nation. A person was killed because he was thought to have had beef, can anything be more shameful than this? I would hope not.