‘It’s war,’ said a Shiv Sainik, brandishing a leg of mutton threateningly. His pal belligerently crunched a chicken drumstick with his teeth. They were protesting the four-day meat ban in Mumbai. ‘We shall fight in the mutton shops, we shall fight in the chicken farms, we shall never surrender,’ thundered a Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chap.
Preparations were on in full swing for the meat wars in the city. ‘Our strategy,’ said a pro-ban BJP leader, ‘is to pelt the enemy with rotten tomatoes.’ He said potatoes were harder, but he was worried the Jains may object. ‘My plan to make them weep with onions was vetoed,’ said a crestfallen anti-meat crusader, tears streaming down his face. A leader said the defeat in Mira-Bhayander, where the BJP was forced to give up its plan of enforcing an eight-day meat ban, was a dampener.
But he rallied his troops with a wonderful speech. ‘At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, Mumbai will awake to freedom from meat. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old mutton rogan josh to the new pumpkin, when the soul of a vegetarian city, long suppressed, finds utterance,’ he bellowed, amidst scenes of wild jubilation and shouts of ‘Na khaunga, na khane doonga’. It was their finest hour.
In the opposite camp, morale was high as free kebabs were being distributed. But their plan to lob chicken legs into the enemy camp had hit a snag because the ammunition was being eaten up as soon as it was handed out. One of them told me they had a secret weapon. ‘A couple of barbecued pigs catapulted at them will send them scattering,’ he chortled gleefully.
An egg-eater trying to sell them rotten eggs for throwing said he was with the meat eaters, even though eggs had not been banned. ‘First they came for the beef-eaters, but I did not speak out, because I was not a beef-eater; then they came for the meat-eaters, but I did not speak out, because I was not a meat-eater; then they came for the fish eaters, but I did not speak out, because I was not a fish eater; then they finally came for the egg eaters, but there was no one left to speak for me,’ he said emotionally.
A political food scientist explained why the meat ban was so important. ‘So long, we in India were divided on the basis of class, caste, religion, language. We now have an entirely new division based on what we eat. As we speak, the ILP (Idli Lovers Party), the Vegetarian Party (pro-Cabbage, anti-Onion) and the Pork Fat Eaters Party have applied for registration,’ he said. He handed out invitations to the inaugural session of the Banana Janata Party, for folks who love bananas.
A member of the SLDP (Strictly Liquid Diet Party) asked anxiously whether alcohol would be banned. ‘Don’t be silly,’ said the political food scientist, ‘it’s 100% vegetarian.’
Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint
The views expressed by the author are personal