Kolkata: Meat festival called off as politics plays spoiler

  • Ravik Bhattacharya, Hindustan Times, Kolkata
  • Updated: Mar 31, 2015 12:01 IST

It was billed as a unique protest against the ban on cow slaughter in some states. However, politics has cast a spoiler on what was to be the city’s show of defiance against the assault on taste.

While it’s despair for those who had planned to let their eating do the talking and send across a subtle yet clear message by sampling the delectable kebab and tandoori spreads at the fest on Tuesday, the organisers aren’t likely to die wondering and have begun preparing for a legal battle against the venue authorities for canceling the event.

The event, planned by Leftleaning NGOs at Muslim Institute on Park Street, was to host over 1,000 people. Former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, former mayor Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya and veteran Congress leader Abdul Mannan were to be among the high-profile guests at the event.

While the venue authorities were tight-lipped on why the event had to be cancelled, sources said they had to yield to political pressure.

A Trinamool MP claimed an obvious political motive behind hosting the event and said it was a CPI(M) ploy to draw minority votes in the KMC (Kolkata Municipal Corporation) polls.

Organisers said they would move court against the venue authorities for giving in to political pressure and canceling the event.

“We sense a conspiracy by the ruling Trinamool Congress. We were told by authorities of the Muslim Institute that the event had to be cancelled at the very last moment. We see this is as Trinamool’s covert support to the BJP on the ban on cow slaughter. We’ll move court against the venue authorities for canceling the event,” former CPI(M) councillor Faiyaz Ahmed Khan, who was to be one of the principal organisers of the event, told HT on Monday.

“We’d already paid for the venue and food. All arrangements had been made. What are we to do now? This (the event) was to be a protest by secular voices against the ban on cow slaughter. Over 1,000 people, across religious lines, were to attend the fest,” Ahmed said.

Authorities of the Muslim Institute said the organisers couldn’t give details that they’d sought about the event and hence it had to be cancelled. They claimed there were attempts to politicise the issue and bring a bad name to the institute.

“We read some news reports calling it a beef fest. We asked organisers for details of the event, but they couldn’t get back to us in time. Hence, we had to cancel the event and return the token money,” Samsher Alam, secretary of the institute that was established in 1902, told HT.

“It’s sad that a political conspiracy is at work to tarnish the institute. Some leaders of the ruling party, who tried to take control of the institute and failed, have latched on to the issue to give us a bad name. This is a needless controversy,” Alam said.

Trinamool MP Sultan Ahmed said the event was a ploy by Left parties to get back in the good graces of minority voters as the civic polls near.

“The organisers (Left leaders) could have chosen any other venue. Why Muslim Institute? Is it because it is synonymous with Muslims? This area (Park Street) is home to people of all faiths. Who would be responsible if something were to go wrong?” Ahmed told HT.

Sources said as news of the unique gourmet protest broke, a section of Muslim intellectuals and political leaders voiced their opposition to the idea.

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