A war of words broke out between the Bhopal police and PETA on Tuesday, with the police accusing the animal rights group of keeping them in the dark about their controversial campaign and the latter strongly contesting it.
The campaign for ‘Vegan Eid’ by a group of PETA activists in the walled city had led to minor violence on Monday.
A police officer said PETA activists had given them an application for holding a campaign "to promote vegetarianism". "(But) nowhere in their application had they mentioned that their appeal would be to people of a particular community," said Sunil Patidar, city superintendent of police, Shahjehanabad.
The officer said the police personnel present at the site were shocked to see that PETA activists had come with placards reading 'Make Eid Happy for all - Try Vegan'. This clearly targeted the people of a community, which was much against the spirit of the application, he said. "They violated the conditions of permission," he added.
PETA also did not have permission from the Bhopal district administration to hold such campaign. Collector Nishant Warwade confirmed to HT that no permission was sought by the organisation for the event.
PETA, however, said that they had never sought permission from any district authorities before. "PETA simply informs the police of the area where it organises its campaign. This is a practice we have been observing...Nowhere we take permission from the district administration," said Poorva Joshipura, CEO, PETA India.
"PETA has been campaigning to promote vegetarianism during all festivals, including Diwali, Christmas etc," Joshipura added.
On Monday morning, a group of PETA activists, who had come from Mumbai, gathered in front of Taj-ul-Masajid, carrying placards to promote 'Vegan Eid'. This apparently angered local residents, who pelted stones and shouted slogans 'PETA go back' and 'Mazhab mein dakhal-andazi band karo'. Some activists were also allegedly roughed up by locals.
As tension spread in the area, the police booked Benazir Suraiya, the activist who dressed as a lettuce lady, and two others on charges of hurting religious sentiments. They were produced before a court, which granted them bail, police said.
Meanwhile, several Muslim organisations demanded strict action against PETA and cancellation of its registration.
"Constitution of India allows every citizen to practise faith or religion of his choice. How come any NGO could interfere with a matter of faith and decide what to do or not do. This is unconstitutional and strict action should be taken against PETA," said Mohd Mahir, president of MP Muslim Vikas Parishad.
Social workers Mohd Nafees and Anwar Khan, too, came up with a similar demand and said that anyone trying to disrupt peace and communal harmony should be dealt with strictly.