A day after Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) banned sale of meat and chicken in Greater Mumbai and adjoining areas during the Jain festival Paryushan, the ban on other non-vegetarian items spread to some more States, triggering protests and a political row.
On Thursday Rajasthan issued orders on the same lines, and in fact, went a step ahead to stop sale of fish also, while the Jammu & Kashmir High Court (HC) ordered enforcement of an existing ban on sale of beef in the State following a Public Interest Litigation (PIL).
In a circular issued to all municipal bodies, the Rajasthan Government asked meat shop owners to close their shops and stop sale of meat and fish on September 17 in view of Paryushan and on September 18 on account of Samvatsari, another Jain festival, and September 27 on Anant Chaturdashi, an official said. This order will also be applicable to slaughter houses, the order said.
Meanwhile, the J&K HC ordered the State Government to strictly implement an existing order on ban on sale of beef in the State. The J&K court’s order came following a PIL against cow slaughter. A division Bench of the HC comprising Justice Dhiraj Singh Thakur and Justice Janak Raj Kotwal directed the Director-General of Police (DGP) to ensure strict compliance of the order on beef ban by issuing appropriate directions to all Senior Superintendents (SSPs) and Station House Officers (SHOs) in the State.
The PIL said that slaughtering and sale of bovine meat is rampant in some parts of the State which severely affected religious sentiments of a section of society.
Meanwhile, the issue snowballed in Mumbai and the ban on sale of meat evoked sharp reactions from Shiv Sena, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and even the Bombay HC.
The Bombay HC said imposing a ban on animal slaughter and sale of meat for four days during the Jain festival is not feasible in a metropolitan city like Mumbai. It has sought a response from the State and BMC on a petition filed by Bombay Mutton Dealers Association challenging it.
“Mumbai is a metropolitan city. Such a straight out ban on meat cannot be a formula. Ban is on slaughter and sale of meat. What about other sources? What about packaged meat that is already available in the market?” the court asked. The court suggested that if the Jain community had a problem with animals being slaughtered in the open and displayed in shops, a direction can be issued against it. The matter has been posted for hearing on Friday after the State Government and BMC file their affidavits. The court also sought to know from the civic body under which provision of law it imposed such a ban.
In Mumbai, Raj Thackeray-led MNS set up stalls to sell chicken as a symbolic protest while Shiv Sena workers tore off the notices declaring the meat ban. Shiv Sena also slammed Jains for their insistence on banning sale of meat during their festival saying the community’s stance on practicing “non-violence” comes as a surprise now as they purportedly supported violence during the 1993 riots in the city. The party accused the Jains of doing a volte-face for altering their position on “non-violence”.
“Until now, only fanatic Muslims used to bully people in the name of religion. If the Jains too are going on the path of Muslims, then God save them,” the Sena said in an edit in its mouthpiece Saamana.
“During the 1992-93 Mumbai riots, Marathis had protected Jains, who were saved because violence had been answered by violence. At that time too Paryushan was on. But the Jains were at the forefront, supporting violence then,” the Sena said in an edit in its mouthpiece Saamana.
“Scores of Jains used to come to Matoshree then and thank Balasaheb then for helping them. Today these people talking about non-violence…It’s surprising. What caused this sudden change of heart?” the Sena questioned. “Do not provoke Maharashtra in the name of Paryushan. Believe in the mantra of live and let live and let people eat what they want to,” Sena said.
Similarly, beef ban in J-K has galvanized the politicians in the Kashmir valley. With more than 85 per cent population in the state relishing non-vegetarian food and sizeable number of people preferring different varieties including beef, the ban has left people agitated.
Separatists and religious groups in Kashmir have sharply reacted to JK High Court’s verdict on describing it “infringement in religious matters”. Hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani called for protests on Friday followed by a shutdown against the court verdict. He appealed people to hold protests after the conclusion of Friday prayers.
“This (verdict) is politically motivated and the court has ignored its consequences in the Muslim majority state. This verdict aims at fuelling communal tension to malign the freedom struggle that reflects the mindset of RSS and BJP,” Geelani said in a statement.
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who also heads Mutahida Majlis-e-Ulema, a conglomerate of 20 religious organisations, also issued a similar protest schedule. Mirwaiz termed the court verdict as “politically motivated” and said the ban on beef sale would be unacceptable. He said the government, the administration and the judiciary is unnecessarily intervening in the religious affairs of the Muslim majority J&K, which causes resentment and displeasure among the masses.
Mirwaiz said that while on one hand India exports beef to earn foreign exchange and on the other it attempts to ban its sale for the common people. He said even as beef eating has not gained currency in urban Muslims of Kashmir, it is considered as “food of the poor man” of majority of consumers in the countryside.
Jamaat-e-Islami and Muslim League also condemned the ban on sale of beef and described it as infringement into the religious affairs of Muslims. “Enough is enough. No power on earth can change halal into haram and haram into halal,” said leader of hardline faction of Hurriyat Conference Nayeem Khan. “Muslims have to follow shariat and not the dictations of any court, Government or bureaucracy”, he said. He appealed Muslims to slaughter only bovine animals on eve of the coming Eid-ul-Zaha to protest the illogical order.
Education Minister Naeem Akhtar, who is also the spokesman for the Government said that the coalition Government would study the judgement and come up with a response. “There is already a law governing this subject”, he said. The Opposition NC also chose to parry the issue.