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New Delhi: For the first time in New Delhi, the civic body has announced the closure of meat shops during the Hindu festival of Navratri, shutting down people’s livelihoods and denying people the right to choose what to eat.
Although the mayors of the BJP-led South and East Delhi Municipal Corporation (MCD) announced the ‘meat ban’, an official order in this connection is yet to be issued. The commissioner, who has executive powers, seems to have not approved the order.
“Most of the meat shops were closed today [April 5]. Most people do not eat meat, onion-garlic during Navratri time. So keeping in view the religious sentiments of the public, there is no need to open meat shops during the Navratri festival. An order in this regard will be issued today,” South MCD mayor Mukesh Suryan said.
This time, the Chaitra Navratri is also coinciding with the month of Ramzan, the holiest month for the Muslim community.
Meanwhile, several meat shops in East and South Delhi have shut down, fearing action by officials.
BJP MP Parvesh Sahib Singh Verma supported the mayors’ decision and said the ban should be extended across the country. “Our culture says that we have to respect every religion… Modi government schemes are for every religion,” the MP said. He further said, “During Christmas and Ramzan, Hindus respect their religions. Similarly, when it’s a Hindu festival, it should be respected.”
However, it’s important to note that many Hindus don’t observe fast in the first place, and eat non-vegetarian food even during Navratri. Therefore, many people have questioned the civic body’s decision to ban meat for nine days, saying that it has to do more with religious might.
Moreover, data also shows that the share of meat-eaters has risen in all the states in India in the past decade, with Delhi showing the highest increase.
What does the data say
A 2018 Mint analysis of data from two successive rounds of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) conducted in 2005-06 and 2015-16 showed that apart from Delhi, several other northern states such as Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, and Uttarakhand have shown high rates of increase in meat consumption. The report also said that vegetarianism in the country has been on the decline over the past decade.
Although meat-eating has been on the rise in north India, vegetarians are still a majority in several of these states, the Mint report said.
The Wire had also reported, citing three datasets from the National Sample Survey, NFHS and India Human Development Survey, that far from being a vegetarian nation, India is a meat-eating majority nation.
Another 2014 report by the Office of Registrar General revealed that 71% of Indians over the age of 15 are non-vegetarian, with Telangana topping the list with 98.8% men and 98.6% women enjoying their meat, fowl and fish.
According to the data, none of the South Indian states figured in the list of vegetarian states, which included Rajasthan, Haryana, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab. Rajasthan has the highest number of vegetarian, followed by Haryana and Punjab.
Another report in The Wire had explained how food politics in India spearheads an aggressive new Hindu nationalism that has led to many of India’s meat eating minority communities being treated as inferior. Muslims, Christians, Dalits and Adivasis are overtly and covertly coerced into giving up their traditional foods to fit into a vegetarian Hindu identity.
Since the last few years, “food” has become a political tool to polarise the Indian community. Several incidents have been reported from across the country of a mob beating, and even lynching, Muslims for allegedly selling beef.
According to the Indian Express, the Delhi civic body had passed similar orders before. In November 2017, BJP’s Shikha Rai, then leader of the House of SDMC, had approved a proposal by the civic body to ban the display of non-vegetarian food in the open. The move, Rai said, was aimed at maintaining hygiene and respecting people’s sentiments since not everyone eats non-vegetarian food.
The proposal, which was sent to the commissioner, however, remained on the backburner and didn’t become a rule.
In August 2018, the East MCD passed a rule directing all restaurants and eateries in the region to put up prominent boards, specifying if they were serving ‘halal’ or ‘jhatka’ meat. Last year, the South MCD passed the same rule, followed by the East and North MCDs.