The order of the SHO is questionable as the district civil administration had not deemed it necessary to impose such restrictions on meat sellers and eateries.
In a clear case of overreach of powers, the station house officer of Kotwali police station in Dadri on July 18, ordered the closure of all shops selling meat and eggs under his jurisdiction in this part of west Uttar Pradesh till the time the ongoing Kanwar Yatra culminates with the offering of Ganges water at the temples by followers of Lord Shiva on Monday.
The order, issued by SHO Ram Sen Singh, has received criticism from various groups as it is ideally the civil administration which takes such decisions. It is pertinent to note that in neighbouring Ghaziabad, too, all meat shops have been ordered to close. However, Dadri’s has been a different story over the last two years, ever since Mohammad Akhlaq was lynched there by a mob which suspected him to have consumed beef.
The incident had sparked a communal flare in the area and the arrival of various right-wing leaders had only fanned the tense atmosphere. Several sporadic incidents of intolerance have come to light in the region ever since.
Last year too, during the Kanwar yatra, which takes place in the Hindu month of saawan or shravan, some radical groups had demanded the closure of meat shops in Dadri. But due to the Samajwadi party government in the state then, the police administration had not acceded to the demand and the shops had remained open.
However, with the Yogi Adityanath-led government in the state and the new-found energy in the Hindu fringe groups, the police officers, this time, succumbed to the pressure. In his order, Singh not only threatened action against meat shops that will be open but also reasoned that the decision has been taken in view of the “sensibilities” of those out on Kanwar pilgrimage.
The officer said since the Kanwar yatra was passing by the GT Road under his jurisdiction, he has asked all the shops selling meat and eateries selling non-vegetarian food to shut temporarily.
While the police does have the powers to impose restrictions for maintenance of public order, the order of the SHO is questionable as the district civil administration had not deemed it necessary to impose such restrictions on meat sellers and eateries.
On the other hand, in Ghaziabad district, through which the bulk of the yatra passes on its way to Delhi, Dadri and other parts of north India; it was the civil administration which had imposed similar restrictions earlier this month. In the order, district magistrate of Ghaziabad Nidhi Kesarwani had also ordered all meat shops in the district to remain closed till the Maha Shivratri celebrations got over.
However, the order was not about meat ban alone. It had also imposed restrictions on the pilgrims barring the playing of loud music and carrying of hockey sticks. Besides, through the order, carrying of tridents over six inches long was also barred. The order was in keeping with a decision taken by senior police officials of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Delhi, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh at a meeting prior to the start of the yatra, which is expected to draw nearly 3.24 crore kanwars this time.