A post on Facebook fuelled a 'protest beef party' that greeted BJP president Amit Shah during his maiden visit to Meghalaya's capital Shillong on Wednesday.
The party--dubbed a "feast for rights"--was held in front of the Raj Bhavan amid a 12-hour shutdown called by a outlawed rebel group to protest the Sangh Parivar's atrocities against Christians. The main religion in tribal-dominated Meghalaya is Christianity.
"Our simple message was for the BJP and its affiliates not to impose their ideas on people whose food and cultural habits are different," Angela Rangad, one of the organisers, told Hindustan Times from Shillong. Ironically, she is related to former BJP leader and state home minister Thrang Hok Rangad.
The beef party, the outcome of a "casual call" on Facebook, was organised by Thma U Rangli-Juki (TUR), a pressure group opposed to cultural policing and policies that are anti-tribal and anti-farmers.
"People from diverse backgrounds came together to defend our rights and freedom by singing songs and partaking of local delicacies such as doh masi (beef curry) and doh shain (dumplings made with powdered beef). They also displayed placards seeking Amit Shah's arrest for genocide," said TUR member Tarun Bhartiya.
(A group of people in Shillong hold a 'beef party' to mark their protest against BJP chief Amit Shah. HT photo)
Bhartiya said police prevented the protestors from reaching the venue where Shah addressed BJP workers. The protestors chose a spot outside the Governor's House - and opposite the state BJP office - for the party.
"We kept a watch over the party but our focus was more on the possibility of militants causing law and order problems," a senior police officer said on condition of anonymity.
State BJP chief Khlur Sing Lyngdoh defended the consumption of beef, saying it is part of the food habits of Meghalaya's ethnic communities.
The shutdown was called the Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council. All schools, offices, shops and business establishments remained closed during the bandh.
During his speech, Shah asked party workers to expand the BJP's base to ensure the goal of a "Congress-free India". He also met leaders of the NCP and regional parties such as the United Democratic Party and Hill State People's Democratic Party. The BJP was earlier a partner in a coalition government formed by these parties.
Since the BJP stormed to power in last year's general election, several states ruled by the party have either imposed strict punishment for the sale and consumption of beef or are mulling similar measures.
Shah's tour of the eight-state northeast began last week with Mizoram, Nagaland and Manipur. The tour ends with Tripura.