On Monday (April 4), the South Delhi Municipal Corporation announced that all meat shops located within the vicinity of a temple will remain closed between April 2-April 11, in light of Navaratri celebrations.
The decision was taken keeping in view the sentiments of the public during Navratri when a strict vegetarian diet is followed by the devotees during the nine days of the festival. South Delhi Mayor, Mukkesh Suryaan, had noted that many often restrict the use of onion and garlic in their diets during Navaratri.
“The sight of meat being sold in open or near temples makes them (the people) uncomfortable. Their religious belief and sentiments are also affected when they come across meat shops or when they have to bear with the foul smell of the meat on their way to offer their daily prayers to the Goddess,” he had remarked.
During Navratri, 99% of households in Delhi don’t even use garlic & onion, so we’ve decided that no meat shops will be open in South MCD; the decision will be implemented from tomorrow. Fine will be imposed on violators: Mukkesh Suryaan, Mayor of South Delhi Municipal Corporation pic.twitter.com/zGCw3dOW4R— ANI (@ANI) April 4, 2022
Meat ‘ban’ sparks outrage
Along with Delhi’s SDMC, many parts of North India have prohibited sale of meat during the nine days of Navaratri. This has outraged a lot of people on social media.
Siddharth Vardarajan, the founder of The Wire, wrote, “Why should meat shops be shut during Navaratri in Ghaziabad or any other place? Those fasting or those who are vegetarian are free to do their own thing but why are their food habits being foisted on all Indians and hurting the business of meat vendors?”
Why should meat shops be shut during Navaratri in Ghaziabad or any other place? Those fasting or those who are vegetarian are free to do their own thing but why are their food habits being foisted on all Indians and hurting the business of meat vendors?https://t.co/9aQrcf57v9— Siddharth (@svaradarajan) April 2, 2022
Shekhar Gupta, the founder of The Print, claimed that it is impossible to find a city or a region in India where 99% of people are vegetarian. “Even if they were, it’s a free country & no majority can force its choices on people. And if indeed they could, vegetarians beware. A very wide majority of us Indians are meat-eaters, ” he had tweeted.
In no city or region of India are 99% people vegetarian. Even if they were, it’s a free country & no majority can force its choices on people. And if indeed they could, vegetarians beware. A very wide majority of us Indians are meat-eaters…— Shekhar Gupta (@ShekharGupta) April 5, 2022
“I can’t buy meat because you don’t eat onion and garlic? Strange religion,” wrote ‘journalist’ Aditya Menon.
I can’t buy meat because you don’t eat onion and garlic? Strange religion https://t.co/dVGJ3yJevs— Aditya Menon (@AdityaMenon22) April 4, 2022
It must be mentioned that many in the Northern States of India refrain from eating non-vegetarian food during the 9 days of Navaratri. Some even fast on all 9 days. Having said that, Hinduism is diverse, pluralistic and festivities are influenced by local cultures. During the same period when North Indians abstain from consuming meat and non-vegetarian products, Bengalis consume fish and mutton and even offer them to Goddess Durga.
Meat and its politicisation
While sale of meat should be banned or not is a debate for another day, in recent times, meat has been politicised and used specifically to hurt religious sentiments of Hindus as well as Jains. Various ‘meat festivals’ including ‘beef festivals’ have been organised by certain section of society specifically to hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus and Jains.
In June 2019, a beef festival that was supposed to be organised in Kolkata was cancelled after the organisers allegedly received threats from people. The organisers had conceded that they could not ensure the safety of the attendees. In a Facebook post, the Accidental Note said, “If any one person is harmed, we would feel personally responsible, and we can not accept that.”
The menu for the ‘Kolkata Beef Festival’, which was eventually changed to ‘Kolkata Beep Festival’ after protests on social media, included some pork dishes as well. As per information received by OpIndia.com from sources, the menu initially did not include pork when the event was first announced, and it was added later on after Hindus registered their disagreement on social media.
In August 2018, a group of hackers named ‘Team Kerala Cyber Warriors’ had hacked the website of Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha and posted the recipe for traditional Kerala beef curry. It was in retaliation to the comments of Swami Chakrapani who alleged that the Kerala floods were a consequence of eating beef and disrespecting cows.
Prior to that in May 2017, Youth Congress workers in Kerala carried out public slaughter of cow. They also organised beef festivals. Hindus consider cows holy and for many Hindus consumption of beef is forbidden. The cow was slaughtered publicly by Youth Congress workers to specifically hurt the religious sentiments of those who hold the cow holy. As have been other ‘beef festivals’.
In September 2015, Shiv Sena had tried to cook chicken outside Jain temple in Mumbai. This was done during the time of Paryushan, the Jain festival where many Jains even abstain from consuming food and water. Jains are predominantly vegetarian community where some even hold fast to mourn the slaughter of goats on Bakri Eid celebrated by Muslims. Similarly, Shiv Sena, too, tried to sell meat on street during Paryushan, with an aim to irk the Jain community.
It is one thing to oppose ban on sale of meat, another thing to cook, sell meat right across temples of Jains with specific intention to hurt their sentiments.