Videos of Hindutva Groups Forcibly Shutting Down Meat Shops For Navratri Emerge From Haryana, MP, UP

Along with the claim that meat shops should close down during the ten days of Navratri, rightwing groups have also demanded that they remain shut on all Tuesdays.

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New Delhi: Videos showing members of rightwing Hindutva outfits mobilising outside meat shops to shut them down during the Navratri period, have emerged on social media from several north Indian cities in the past week.

Navratri is a Hindu festival spanning nine nights. This year it is being observed from October 7 to October 15. A section of Hindus are opposed to consumption of non-vegetarian food during this time.

Gurugram city, Haryana

On October 5, Times of India had reported that several outfits under the banner of the Samyukta Hindu Sangharsh Samiti had written to the deputy commissioner to shut down the 150 meat shops in Gurugram for the nine or 10 days.

In the same deputation, the Samiti also alleged that namaz offered in public places creates “inconvenience” for the public.

The TOI report has noted that meat shops have remained closed on the days of Navratri in several parts of Gurugram in the last two years. However, this year, several meat shop owners have noted that the loss of a 10-day shutdown would compound the negative aftereffects of COVID-19 and the lockdown immensely.

Alishan Jafri, who has been tracking hate speech for The Wire for over a year now, tweeted the following video of a rightwing Hindutva member commenting on the fact that “these shops are increasing” and that they are open “even on Tuesdays and days of Hindu festivals.”

In March 2021, Municipal Corporation of Gurgaon (MCG) decided to close down meat shops in the city every Tuesday, citing that the law governing them prescribes that they be closed once a week.

Bulandshahr district, Uttar Pradesh

Bajrang Dal members of Behat town in Uttar Pradesh’s Bulandshahr, on October 7, submitted a memorandum to demonstrate at the tehsil headquarters, demanding closure of meat shops on Navratri.

In it, the District Convener of Bajrang Dal Harish Kaushik demanded that police should be deployed in various villages along the highway from Saharanpur to a Siddh Peeth temple to enforce a ban on meat shops opening during the period, so that the religious sentiment of Hindu devotees is not hurt. They warned that if there is any “obstruction”, then it will be the responsibility of administration.

“In case meat shops are not shut down, the Bajrang Dal will be forced to take to the streets,” Kaushik said in the memorandum.

By the next day, members of various rightwing outfits took matters in their own hands and went around the city forcibly shutting down meat shops.

On October 8, journalist Neel Madhav tweeted a video, which he said was from Bulandshahr. In it, some men are seen entering a meat shop and forcibly pulling down its shutters. A man in a skull-cap in the meat shop is seen to comply and makes preparations to carry cages and sign boards inside the shop, while the men who had entered the shop – one of whom wears a saffron scarf – ask him to “quickly close the shop.” When a bystander, who presumably shot the video, asks the shop owner what is happening, he can be hear saying, “They are making me close the shop.”

The Wire reached out to the shop owner – whose first name is Imran – and he said, “They have shut down shops because of Navratri. I was going to shut it down anyway since we don’t have much business during this period.”

This video was first shared by members of the Hindu Raksha Dal on Facebook, The Wire has learned.

Bulandshahr Police replied to Madhav’s tweet, saying that the jurisdictional officer and the police station in-charge “have been strictly directed that no shops should be closed forcibly in this way and such work should not be repeated again.”

Replying to the video and tweet in Hindi, the Bulandshahr police said “In this matter, the jurisdictional officer and in-charge of the police station have been strictly directed that no shops should be closed forcibly in this way and such incidents should not be repeated again.”

Madhav noted in his tweet that reports of similar incidents had come from Faridabad in Haryana and Chindwara in Madhya Pradesh.

Faridabad district, Haryana

On October 7, one Jeet Vashisht, a local Bajrang Dal leader in Faridabad with over 52,000 followers on Facebook uploaded a live video in which he can be seen coercing and threatening people to shut down meat shops and restaurants serving non-vegetarian food.

In a clip of the above video shared by Alishan Jafri on Twitter, the rightwing worker is seen waging a pitched verbal battle with a man who says that meat shops were not usually closed during Navratri and have been closed only in the last two years and “since the BJP arrived.”

The man also says that if he had been given prior notice, things would have been easier.

In another video, the worker says that he has permission from several police officials across positions and that the ban on meat shops opening extends to Tuesdays as well.

Chhindwara district, Madhya Pradesh

A video from Chhindwara in Madhya Pradesh shows a similar monologue led by rightwing Hindutva workers who stress on keeping meat shops closed during this time.

Jafri has additionally also tweeted a video showing one Ved Nagar, who is leader of a ‘Gauraksha Hindu Dal’ saying that anyone across India who tries open a meat shop on Navratri will be penalised.

Earlier this year, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath imposed a complete ban on the sale of liquor and meat in Mathura. In 2017, Adityanath had already banned the sale of meat and alcohol in the Vrindavan and Barsana areas, which were declared pilgrimage sites.

In May 2021, a Muslim man was attacked by a group led by a man calling himself a gau rakshak in Uttar Pradesh’s Moradabad district.

While police filed a case against the violent group based on a complaint from the victim’s relative, another FIR – which police filed of their own volition – names the victim himself as the accused.