“Biryani hai?”(Do you have biryani?)
“Haan, lekin murge ka.” (Yes, but only chicken)
“Nahi chahiye.” (Don’t need it)
This is how conversations go at Nuh Chowk in Muslim-dominant Mewat district, around 50km from Gurgaon, these days.
Haryana officials have cracked down on biryani sellers after complaints that they were using beef.
Officials have been collecting samples from shopkeepers and vendors of Nuh since Monday --- ahead of the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha or Bakr-Id. Tests on samples from nearby Mundaka village have confirmed the use of beef.
Selling, slaughtering and the consumption of beef in any form is banned in Haryana under the Gau Raksha and Gau Samvardhan scheme started by the state government and is a punishable offence. Cow is a revered animal for the Hindus.
HT spent time talking to biryani sellers, who rued that they can’t anymore use ‘gosht’, which was popular in the area. Gosht is referred to red meat (beef, lamb or mutton and sometimes buffalo meat). Sellers have even stopped using mutton fearing a backlash --- after attacks by self-styled cow protectors across the country.
Mohammad Akbar lost three customers in the 25 minutes HT spent with him on Friday.
He claimed more than 30 people used to sell biryani on the roadside in Nuh till Monday, and now half of them are out of business.
Akbar, who has been selling biryani for the last 12 years, said this was the first time he was facing such a situation.
“I, like most others, have stopped selling gosht biryani. Officers came, photographed, videographed and collected samples of our food even on Wednesday,” he said.
Mohammad Shahid, a biryani seller in Nuh market, claimed that sales dipped by as much as 50% ever since officials started collecting samples.
“See for yourself. I am selling chicken biryani only,” he said, removing the cover of his large aluminium vessel.
Akbar claimed that the drop in sales was primarily because people in the region loved gosht biriyani.
“Gosht biryani costs Rs 100 a kilo. A kilogram of chicken biryani costs Rs 120....(But) it is not the price, but the taste that makes a difference.”
Another biryani seller, who had set up shop near Akbar’s stall, said they had been using beef in the dish.
“Cow meat was supplied to us from the interior parts of Mewat. But that has stopped ever since the crackdown was launched by DIG Bharti Arora (who is also the nodal officer of Haryana Police’s cow protection task force),” he said on condition of anonymity.
Arora told HT that officials didn’t want to stop the sale of biryani and that police were merely complying with the state government’s directions under a cow protection act.
The government is also likely to deploy a team of doctors at Uttar Pradesh and Delhi borders, cracking the whip against beef sumgglers during Eid.