Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad sparked a controversy on Saturday by saying Hindus and Indians living abroad eat beef, with his remarks drawing a strong protest from BJP leader Giriraj Singh.
Against the backdrop of the lynching of a Muslim man in Uttar Pradesh following rumours that he had slaughtered a calf, the former Bihar chief minister told ANI that the BJP is using the issue of a ban on beef to “communalise the nation”.
“This issue is being used solely for communalising the nation. Hindus eat beef, so do Indians living abroad. For someone who consumes meat on a regular basis, it does not matter if it is beef or mutton,” Lalu Prasad said.
“Hindus too eat beef when they go abroad,” he said before leaving for Hajipur, where his son Tejashwi Yadav filed his nomination papers for the upcoming Bihar assembly polls.
However, Lalu Prasad added that meat was not part of the diet of ‘cultured people’. He also said people “must not eat meat as it is a source for many diseases”.
“Cultured people do not eat meat at all,” he said, while reacting to the lynching of 50-year-old Mohammad Ikhlaq by a mob at Bisada village in Uttar Pradesh on Monday.
Later in the day, the RJD chief modified his statement stating that “ beef does not mean cow’s meat”.
But, the RJD chief’s comments angered BJP leader and Union minister Giriraj Singh, who sought an immediate apology from Lalu Prasad.
“We will launch an agitation from Lalu’s house if he does not withdraw his comments,” Singh told reporters.
Lalu Prasad was embroiled in a controversy last Sunday, when he described the polls in Bihar as a fight between “forward and backward classes”. The Election Commission served a notice to him and a case was filed against him.
The lynching of Ikhlaq sparked sectarian tensions and drew nationwide outrage. He was beaten to death while his 22-year-old son was critically injured by a group of local residents that broke into his home late on Monday night, accusing him of butchering a calf and eating beef.
Cow slaughter and beef trade have come into sharp focus since the BJP took power at the Centre last year as right wing groups have been pushing for a nationwide ban, a move that many minority groups have described as an attack on individual rights.