District authorities in Haryana have started withdrawing a ban on animal slaughter after protest by meat-sellers who were asked to follow a “vegetarian way of life” during a Jain fasting festival, officials said on Saturday.
Authorities in several districts had turned a government appeal into a meat ban diktat in tune with a similar ban in some other BJP-ruled states, triggering a nationwide debate on the freedom of choice.
States like Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Gujarat have also banned the sale of meat, ranging from two days to a week this month, when the Hindus also celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi besides the Jain festival.
OP Sihag, the chief executive officer of Fatehabad municipal corporation, said on Saturday that he has withdrawn an official order which had asked meat-sellers to down shutters from September 11 to 19 following objection by the business community.
He added that the administration has made an “appeal” to meat sellers and slaughter houses, which was the tone and tenor of the original notification sent out by the department of urban local bodies on August 13.
An official circular issued by the department had asked all local bodies and deputy commissioners to “issue an appeal to slaughter houses to remain closed and forbid animal slaughter” during the Jain festivities.
However, sources said that “overzealous functionaries” of local bodies in several districts sent out notices to slaughter houses asking them to close down or face action. Sihag said that it could be due to a clerical mistake.
Sumit Kumar, the sanitation inspector of the Rohtak municipal corporation, confirmed asking meat-sellers that “action will be taken against violators” of the ban.
Though it is not clear how many districts had sent out the notices, meat-sellers in Rohtak, Sirsa and Sonepat besides Fatehabad had protested the prohibition.
“We depend on this business to earn our daily bread and butter. How can we close shops for a week?” said Gurdial Singh, president of the Rohtak meat market committee.
He said that meat-sellers met officials of the municipal body to express their resentment over the order.
“India is the country of festivals, if we will follow all the religions and festivals we have to close our shops for than 300 days in a year,” Singh added.
Urban local bodies minister Kavita Jain, who is said to be behind the ban, distanced herself from the diktat.
“I am not in the know of any notices sent by my department to slaughter houses. I would have the matter looked into if any civic body has done it and I would also again ask officials to only appeal to slaughter houses to keep their business closed and not do anything beyond it,” she said.