At a time when ‘don’t eat meat’ diktat has triggered a political Mahabharat in Bharatiya Janata Party-dominated states, non-vegetarian eateries run by minority community in Bhopal set a refreshing example.
These eateries remain closed during the Navratri and get back into business on Dussehra. The gesture is majorly a token of respect for the Hindu faith and not a closure under culture bullyism.
The tradition was laid down by the founder of Hakeem Hotel, Akhtar Husain, who opened a non-vegetarian eatery at New Market in 1971.
Hakeem Hotel is now the largest chain of non-veg eateries in the city and all its outlets observe this tradition. With the passage of time, other eateries too began to follow the tradition.
Talking to HT, Zaver Husain of Hakeem Hotel, said “We do it to respect Hindu sentiments. A lot of our clientele are Hindus and if they feel that they should not eat non-veg during Navratri, we respect their feelings. It’s not just Navratri but also Hanuman Jayanti and Deepawali that we keep our outlets closed.”
Joyse Thomas of Murga-on-Wheel said there was also a commercial angle to the closure, but added, “If they (the Hindus) believe in discarding non-veg and drinks during Navratri, we should respect their sentiments.”
Ranjeet Sandhu of Cook Dooh Kooh, however, dismissed the commercial angle and said he the gesture was just to join Hindus in showing his respect to the Goddess.
People too have a mixed take on the issue.
Richa Sharma, a resident of Char Imli, said she was not a meat eater so she could hardly notice the trend around her locality. Kunnel John George, a regular customer at Murga-on-Wheel, said, “It speaks volumes about the tradition of mutual understanding and respect that we have in Bhopal and India at large.”
However, Peeyush, who himself observes fast during the nine days, said that it was purely a commercial decision on part of the eateries as a majority of their clients were Hindus, who refrain from meat eating during the festival.
The eatery owners know that keeping their shops open during this period would fetch them little profits and hence the decision, he said.
Sociologist Tapan Mohanty of the National Law Institute University (NLIU) said those who linked the good gesture to commercial considerations were obliquely admitting that a majority of Hindus were non-vegetarian.
“Self-preservation may also be one of the motives behind non-veg eateries keeping closed during Navratri,” he said.