The Haryana government seems determined to cast a dampener on the upcoming Eid festivities with its ongoing drive against biryani vendors who are ostensibly serving beef. In a staggering display of misplaced priorities, the state police have been collecting samples of the dish and having these tested at the laboratory in the department of biotechnology in Lala Lajpat Rai University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences in Hisar. The vendors have repeatedly said that what is suspected to be beef by the Gau Sewa Ayog, which received a complaint on the basis of which raids were conducted, is actually buffalo meat. This does not violate the Haryana Gauvansh Sanrakshan and Gau Samvardhan Act 2015. As with any such action, the vendors are being harassed and are often forced to throw away biryani rather than risk selling it when the raids are on.
The build-up to this has been on for a while. In July, at a panchayat meeting at Doha, in Haryana, which is Muslim-dominated, the Qureshi community were asked to give up the biryani business altogether. The plea from the community that it has no land from which it can get any agricultural income and, therefore, needed these street vending jobs has cut no ice with the authorities. This sort of arbitrary behaviour on the part of the State has led to a group of lawyers filing a PIL against it for disrupting the peace. The State seems to have chosen easy targets in its cow protection crusade. The Mewat drive is to be followed up in other districts as well. This means that the State will now be the arbiter of people’s dietary preferences. It is still unclear on what basis the complaint that beef is being served was filed and on what basis it was accepted. This system of checking for beef will surely lead to extortion and corruption. The government is unconcerned that it is depriving people of their livelihood on flimsy premises and is silent on how to compensate them. The Manohar Lal Khattar government seems to have made the anti-beef drive an article of faith with the chief minister himself having been reported earlier as saying that if Muslims want to eat beef they cannot live in India. However, he later said he was misquoted.
The drive against vendors is yet another example of the intolerance of dietary, clothing and personal choices of people, including their freedom of dissent and criticism. This does little credit either to the Haryana government or the BJP at the Centre. The State has far bigger issues to deal with but it has chosen to direct its resources to imposing food restrictions on people unmindful of the socio-economic consequences of its actions.