India, the meat of the matter

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New Delhi – The ban on the consumption of meat in this season of Jain festivals and Ganesh Puja(celebrating the birthday of a elephant-headed Hindu God) in various parts of the country by the respective state governments/municipalities has turned out to be a huge political issue, with all the anti-Modi forces (they include politicians, academicians and media persons) projecting how the “fascist” Modi government is imposing restrictions on the dietary habits in the country. These opponents of Modi have gone to the court and are jubilant over the latest opinion (not judgment) of the Supreme Court that “meat bans cannot be forced down citizens’ throats”.

Let me reveal that I am a non-vegetarian and love mutton (though I have reduced its consumption drastically of late on doctor’s advice in favour of fish). But in this country if a substantial section of the people is sensitive to the consumption of meat for a limited period of its religious festival, I will not mind being vegetarian for a day or two. After all, this is the true meaning of pluralism and  co-existence in a society. And if there are not enough people who think my way, then it is high time there should be uniformity of rules on such dietary matters all over the country. But alas, that is not going to be the case. Those who are opposing the ban on meat today will not like such uniformity and will selectively support or oppose policies. Let me point out few contradictions in their approaches.

First, it is to be noted that this politics of ban on meat consumption during festivals did not start with the Modi regime. As it is, technically the critics are wrong when they abuse Modi on the matter as the bans are imposed by the state governments or municipal corporations, not the central government, which, at the moment, is being led by Modi. But let it pass. It was 1964 when the practice of banning meat sale during the Jain festival started in Mumbai, the city, which is at the centre of the present controversies. That time, there was no BJP, or for that matter, even no Shiv Sena. It was the golden period of the Congress party, which ruled almost all over India. Since then it has been issued and reissued many a time. Interestingly the ban order was reissued both in 2003 and 2005 when the state of Maharashtra (thus Mumbai) was under the rule of the Congress-NCP coalition. These contradictory approaches have been true in other states as well in some form or the other.  And since these states have been ruled by various parties from time to time, there are no merits in blaming the BJP or for that matter Modi for the present controversy. It is instructive to point out here how the Bengaluru municipality has imposed ban on meat for a day or two for the Ganesh festival in the city ( interestingly though the Congress lost the polls to the municipality badly last month, it has been able to have its Mayor by resorting to not so fair and honest means).

Secondly, there are serious inconsistencies in taking recourse to the logic that there cannot be any restrictions on the food habits of the people. As I have said, I have no problem if this principle is uniformly implemented. But the reality is different. I know for sure that some institutions which are leading the anti-Modi movement today on the subject themselves are very strict that only vegetarian food is available in their premises. Why are they silent on the laws that prohibit the consumption of meat in towns like Hardwar and Rishikesh? Will they approve of the availability of pork in restaurants near famous mosques? I have heard some overzealot “secularists” like Mani Shankar Aiyar not wearing “the sacred thread” of a Brahmin and eating beef as symbolic demonstration of his secular credentials, but can he ask a Muslim to share the dining table with someone eating pork?

Cultura & Società