Butchers in Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s hometown, Gorakhpur, resisted on Tuesday a police crackdown on shops selling buffalo meat in the Muslim-dominated Rehmat Nagar area.
The police action is in line with the ruling BJP’s pre-poll promise to shut down illegal slaughterhouses in the state. The party secured a landslide victory in the February-March assembly elections.
“This is our sole source of livelihood. If the administration forces us to close our shops, we will go to the Gorakhnath temple to meet the chief minister and ask him to arrange alternative livelihoods for us to feed our children,” said Bablu Qureshi, whose joint family of 20 depends on earnings from his meat shop.
The 44-year-old Yogi is the head priest of Gorakhpur’s influential Gorakhnath shrine. Also, he was five-term parliamentarian for Gorakhpur, till he became UP chief minister.
The city’s lone slaughterhouse in Himayupur was shifted to Bhathat on the outskirts in 2012 after opposition from Adityanath. Later, butchers started slaughtering buffaloes at other places.
There are about 60 shops selling buffalo meat in Gorakhpur.
The police drive to check licences of meat shops in the Muslim localities of Rasoolpur, Buxipur, Tiwaripur and Jafra Bazar began on Sunday night.
“Police have only checked licences. Reports will be sent to the state government to decide future action,” superintendent of police Hemraj Meena said on Tuesday.
The team returned from Rehmat Nagar without closing any of the shops. The butchers insisted that they be shown written orders to shut their outlets.
The slaughterhouse licences were last renewed in 2002. But mayor Satya Pandey said the Gorakhpur Municipal Corporation has no power to issue or renew licences.
Buffalo meat is not banned in UP, unlike beef and slaughtering of cattle — illegal in most states across the country. But curbs on buffalo meat are rising as the animal is regarded highly along with cows, which enjoy a sacred status in Hinduism.