Meat ban obviously doesn’t curry favour with Hindutva forces

India of the 21st century is sensible and mature enough to realise that the state does not need to police an individual's diet in order to ensure that the religious sensibilities of a micro-minority are not offended. (Image: Wikipedia)

India of the 21st century is sensible and mature enough to realise that the state does not need to police an individual’s diet in order to ensure that the religious sensibilities of a micro-minority are not offended. (Image: Wikipedia)

The contrarian approach of the saffron parties towards the meat ban in Maharashtra during the Jain fasting period of Paryushan reveals that the Sangh Parivar is a divided lot instead of being one united family. Before addressing the issue of disunity among the BJP, Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, let us make one thing aptly clear: the ban on meat is utterly foolish.

Right-wingers are trying to justify it by suggesting that the ban has been in place since a long time; to be precise, since 1964. But merely because a retrograde practice has been carrying on since decades, does it mean that it should be tolerated? Racism, no matter how minute it might be, is a threat and so is food fascism. It cannot be tolerated even if it is for a short period of time. The ban may have gone unnoticed during the 1960s when India was a relatively nascent nation but India of the 21st century is sensible and mature enough to realise that the state does not need to police an individual’s diet in order to ensure that the religious sensibilities of a micro-minority are not offended. Both meat eaters and non-meat eaters have a right to choose what they wish to eat. Let them make the choice instead of the state telling them.

Second, for heaven’s sake do not indulge in the politics of convenience by invoking the name of Akbar. This sudden admiration of the Hindu right for Akbar is most hypocritical. The Twitter trolls who label every Muslim emperor to have ruled India as a communal bigot are now citing the ban which Akbar had put on meat eating during Paryushan to justify what the BJP has done in Mumbai. It is not incumbent upon the government of India or government of Maharashtra to employ the same techniques which were utilised by a monarch centuries ago to cultivate religious harmony. Akbar tried to create a new religion called Din-e-Illahi for the sake of creating religious integration. Will the BJP-Shiv Sena government also attempt to create a new hybrid religion to resolve religious differences? The simple answer is that they won’t.

Coming back to Maharashtra politics, not long ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP managed to take over the leadership of the saffron brigade in Maharashtra from the Shiv Sena by emerging as the single largest party during the Assembly elections held in 2014. While the BJP bagged 122 seats, Shiv Sena came in second with 63 seats. Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) turned out to be irrelevant as it won only one seat, lesser than debutant All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen (AIMIM) which won two seats. The results were a matter of deep humiliation for Bal Thackeray’s political heirs – Uddhav and Raj. Following the death of the Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray, both Uddhav and Raj had tried to replace him as the new leader of the “Marathi manoos”. But both failed the popularity contest as Modi conquered Maharashtra convincingly.

In February 2017, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), the richest municipal body in the world, will go to polls. The BMC has traditionally been controlled by the Shiv Sena but considering the political overtures made by the BJP in the past, it is very much possible that the Modi-Amit Shah combine will intend to dethrone Shiv Sena from the BMC as well. Therefore, it is natural for the Shiv Sena to oppose the BJP at this stage. The same goes for the MNS. The central force in Maharashtra politics is no longer the Congress or Shiv Sena, it’s the BJP. That’s precisely why the Shiv Sena and MNS have harped on the opportunity to oppose the meat ban.

The decision of imposing the ban was taken by the BJP. The Shiv Sena and MNS, by going all out in their opposition to the meat ban, are aligning themselves away from the BJP and trying to encash the anti-BJP sentiment which has emerged owing to this senseless decision. The Shiv Sena and MNS intend to enhance their popularity in the urban areas by speaking out against the meat ban which they hope will provide them electoral dividends in the BMC polls. Another significant reason the Shiv Sena and MNS have decided to take such a political risk is primarily because of the involvement of the Jain community instead of Hindus in the current controversy.

The Jains happen to be a micro-minority with less than limited electoral impact. The approach of the Shiv Sena and MNS would have been different had the meat ban been imposed in relation to a Hindu festival. Jains, though considered by many as a subsect of Hindus, are not Hindus at the end of the day. That’s why the MNS had the courage to roast chicken outside a hall where Jains had gathered in Thane. They would have never done so had it been Hindus instead of Jains. Though the meat ban is a thing to be abhorred, what needs to be equally abhorred are such shameless ways of protest which exemplify a naked majoritarian mindset, bent on harassing minorities by indulging in the most insensitive acts. Consuming meat during Paryushan is a matter of choice but willingly roasting chicken outside a hall full of Jains is an act of mischief.

The MNS would have certainly wanted the Jains to take objection to their crude way of protest. Thankfully, the Jains ignored the agitating political workers and did not provide them with a chance to indulge in a physical brawl. Raj Thackeray’s political ambition of turning this controversy into a “Jain vs Hindu” slugfest should never materialise. This is a question of personal liberty and it should remain that way. Political parties cannot be allowed to further communalise this issue. Uddhav Thackeray has said, “Let us bring the curtains down on the controversy over the meat ban”, but his party’s original stand against the meat ban has made two things clear: not all is fine as far as the BJP-Shiv Sena coalition is concerned. Second, after targeting Muslims, south Indians and north Indians, Jains might be the next set of people to be attacked in Maharshtra by the Shiv Sena on the presumptuous notion of “rich Jains taking away the place of the Maratha people”.

http://www.dailyo.in/politics/meat-ban-bjp-shiv-sena-paryushan-jainism-narendra-modi-bmc-muslims-hindutva/story/1/6230.html

(This article was originally published in DailyO.) 

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Meat ban in Mumbai for eight days: Does India want to be a Saudi Arabia?

The decision of the BJP-led Mira Bhayander Municipal Corporation (MBMC) in Mumbai to ban the slaughter and sale of meat during the Jain fasting period of Paryushan goes against the spirit of religious pluralism. (Image: Wikipedia)

The decision of the BJP-led Mira Bhayander Municipal Corporation (MBMC) in Mumbai to ban the slaughter and sale of meat during the Jain fasting period of Paryushan goes against the spirit of religious pluralism. (Image: Wikipedia)

Prior to the arrival of the Muslim holy month of fasting ie Ramzan in June 2014, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) officially urged non-Muslims to respect the feelings of Muslims. A statement issued by the interior ministry of KSA said, “Non-Muslim expatriates should respect the feelings of Muslims by not eating, drinking or smoking in public places such as streets and workplaces. They should not think that they are exempted from this because they are followers of other faiths.”

Saudi Arabia has set many shameful records as far as violation of human rights are concerned but the above mentioned statement of the interior ministry was particularly ridiculous. What has a non-Muslim got to do with Ramzan? Just like a non-Muslim should recognise the right of a Muslim to fast during Ramzan from dawn to dusk without consuming even a drop of water, the government of Saudi Arabia should have also recognised the right of non-Muslims to carry on with their routine lives in the month of Ramzan. Non Muslims cannot be made to go hungry or thirsty during a month considered as holy by Muslims.

Why should a Muslim get offended if he sees a non-Muslim consume food at a public place? The non-Muslim is obviously not thrusting anything inside the Muslim’s mouth to break his fast. Therefore, it was preposterous of the Saudi Arabian government to suggest that the religious feelings of Saudi’s Muslims will be hurt if they come across a non-fasting non-Muslim. Saudi Arabian authorities should have acted with some wisdom and refrained from bullying non-Muslim expatriates in this manner. But sanity is something one shouldn’t expect from the Saudis as they don’t recognise the religious rights of non-Muslims and prevent them from doing something as basic as building their places of worship.

Let’s now move from so-called Islamic state of KSA in west Asia towards east Asia wherein the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is situated. China happens to be ruled by an atheistic, communist regime. In June 2015, Chinese authorities banned civil servant, students and teachers from fasting during Ramzan in the Muslim majority province of Xinjiang. This decision of the Chinese government was as mindless as the one taken by Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The state of China has a particular ideology which does not consider religion as something of very high value but that doesn’t mean that people with certain religious beliefs would be victimised and students prevented from going to mosques and attending religious activities.

By fasting during Ramzan the community of Uighur Muslims would not have indulged in any secessionist activity. In fact by bulldozing their religious freedom, the Chinese officials ended up marginalising those people who held theistic beliefs. Unfortunately, our country India is also moving in the direction of KSA and PRC. The decision of the BJP-led Mira Bhayander Municipal Corporation (MBMC) in Mumbai to ban the slaughter and sale of meat during the Jain fasting period of Paryushan goes against the spirit of religious pluralism.

Some might argue that the ban which is set to expire on September 27 is only for a short period and that non-vegetarians can easily refrain consuming meat during this timeframe. But the question which should be asked is: How are non-vegetarians offending Jains by consuming non-vegetarian food during Paryushan? They are not forcing Jains to consume meat alongside them.

We need to realise that to respect each other’s beliefs we don’t need to start following or observing each other’s religious traditions and practices. An atheist does not have to attend a religious procession to make the world believe in the fact that he stands by religious freedom. He or she can choose to stay at home and yet recognise the right of theists to participate in a religious ritual. Similar attitude has to be maintained as far as the relationship between different religious communities is concerned. If someone does not consume beef or pork because of religious sensitivities then he/she should surely abstain from it but he/she cannot make others abstain from consuming such food items on the account of his/her religious beliefs.

If there is any sort of compulsion pertaining to food consumption then it definitely amounts to food fascism. The government has no right to tell the people what they are supposed to eat and when or where they are allowed to eat. The sooner countries like Saudi Arabia, China and India realise it; the better it would be for religious plurality and freedom. The state cannot police any person’s diet merely to further its own political designs or to protect a certain group’s religious feelings. Toleration and respect towards a religious community’s traditions is essential but replication of their rituals is not.

http://www.dailyo.in/politics/meat-ban-maharashtra-mira-bhayander-municipal-corporation-jains-paryushan-saudi-arabia-ramzan/story/1/6142.html

(This article was originally published in DailyO.)