The BJP’s clarification that there would be no beef ban in the three northeastern states which go the polls next year if the party were to come to power is welcome but given what is happening on the meat issue in Uttar Pradesh where the it won handsomely, raises some questions. The assurance is based on the fact that the Christian majority in Meghalaya,Mizoram and Nagaland eat beef but for the party to employ different yardsticks for different communities and different states is questionable. The Muslims too have no taboos about eating beef but this is not permitted in many states including UP where meat sellers in general are facing problems from over-zealous vigilantes and the police. If the premise on the part of the Hindutva brigade is that the cow is sacred and, therefore, cannot be slaughtered, geographical location and eating habits should not make a difference. But the more reasonable thing to do for the party which is on the ascendant would be to leave well alone when it comes to people’s eating habits.
Across India, minorities and even some Hindus eat beef though many states do not permit cow slaughter. By and large, in the north, the beef consumed is that of the buffalo but that too is under attack today. India’s vast tribes and communities have differing and eclectic eating habits and to try and impose a cookie cutter prototype on them would amount to depriving them of their fundamental rights. The northeastern states going to the polls will be keenly observing the problems that meat eaters and sellers are facing in UP where not just illegal abattoirs but legal ones too are facing problems leading to a protest from traders. The trade benefits both Hindus and Muslims and in states like the northeast, Kerala and Goa the Christians as well.
To focus on eating habits is to open the floodgates to vigilantes who want to impose their own codes on people. The fatal fallout of that was seen in Dadri where a man was beaten to death in his own home on suspicion of storing beef in his fridge. The issue of eating habits should not even feature in election campaigns and the party is not doing anyone a favour by saying that they would be allowed to eat whatever they want. What holds good for the northeastern states, irrespective of who they elect, should be so for other states as well. The sooner this issue of illegal abattoirs and meat consumption is resolved, the quicker both UP and other states can get on with the real and far more important task of development which is an article of faith with the prime minister.