Meat acquires political taste as protestors decry ban

Mumbai: Meat has spilled over from dinner tables to streets as hundreds of political activists on Thursday protested the four-day meat ban here during a Jain festival, even as the Bombay High Court raised its eyebrows at the ban.

The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, in a bid to regain political relevance, led the protests in Dadar, the hub of the meat-loving Maharashtrian community by selling the banned items on Thursday — the start of the eight-day-long Jain holy festival of Paryushan which devouts observe through religious austerity/fasting and forgiveness.

“We challenge authorities to take action against us… This meat ban is unjustified, violates our fundamental rights and intended to appease a particular community against the wishes of the huge majority,” MNS leader and corporator Sandeep Deshpande later told media persons.

He dared the civic authorities to “take action” against the sale of chicken and fish.

Deshpande said the people were entitled to eat whatever they wanted anytime, and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had no right to stop them.

After the hour-long impromptu fish and chicken market, Deshpande and half a dozen protestors were detained and the temporary stalls were removed.

Earlier this week, the BMC imposed a ban on sale of meat for four days of the Paryushan festival, while the adjoining Mira-Bhayander Municipal Corporation in Thane declared a complete ban during September 11-18.

Other civic bodies like Navi Mumbai and Nashik have also followed suit with similar partial ban on certain days, hitting the slaughter and sale of mutton, chicken and fish items.

Though the ban has been implemented in Mumbai in spurts since 1964, it has never led to street protests.

The Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena government has already banned beef sale in the state.

Hearing a PIL filed by Bombay Mutton Dealers Association challenging the BMC’s move, a division bench headed by Justice Anoop Mohta directed the civic and state authorities to file affidavits on the issue.

Terming the ban as “not feasible” in a metropolitan city like Mumbai, Justice Mohta observed that such a straight ban cannot be a formula.

He further wondered about the status of other items like packaged meat products already available in the markets.

The matter will come up for further hearing on Friday.