The ban on sale of meat in Mumbai during the Jain community's upcoming fasting period following a demand by BJP, has sparked a row with ally Shiv Sena joining opposition Congress in denouncing it as "religious terrorism".
The order by Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) commissioner Ajoy Mehta came days after a civic body took a similar decision in the adjoining Thane district banning meat sale for eight days from September 11 to 18 when the Jain community will observe fasting period 'Paryushan'.
Defending the BMC's decision, Mumbai BJP unit's general secretary Amarjeet Mishra on Tuesday said the ban has been imposed to protect the religious sentiments of the Jain community and that it should not be taken as a "targeted decision".
According to the order passed on Monday by the BMC, ruled by Sena and BJP, the ban on meat sale would be enforced on four days - September 10, 13, 17 and 18. Mehta did not reply to a message sent by PTI for his comments over the decision.
However, civic officials claimed that this is not a new decision and it has been in practice for last several years, adding that the prohibition will not affect the sale of fish and other seafood.
They said the step was taken in view of the growing demand not only by the Jain community, but also from some BJP corporators.
"On these four days, BMC slaughter houses will be shut and sale of meat will also be prohibited. The market department (of BMC) has been asked to enforce the ban and ensure no animal is slaughtered and no meat is sold anywhere in the city," a senior civic official said.
Civic officials warned of stern action if the ban is violated.
The BJP insisted it was "not a ban" but "being tolerant towards very community in the spirit of secularism". However, its ally Shiv Sena, which has a majority in the country's richest corporation BMC, said the ban is unsupportable and alleged that the BJP was "trying to appease" some sections of the society.
Congress leader Sachin Sawant said the order was imposition of RSS ideology.
"Is it for the government to decide what I eat, what I drink, what I wear, where I sleep, when I speak...? What you are seeing across the country is the creeping spectre of fascism," Congress leader Manish Tewari said.
Shiv Sena's Sanjay Raut equated the decision to "religious terrorism".
"There are Sikhs, Muslims, Christians and Jains who consider themselves as minorities. And we respect them...but to dictate what we should eat...," he said.
"The ban is unsupportable. The BMC has buckled under pressure from the BJP. The government should not take any decision to please a particular religious community and should function as per Constitution," Sena spokesperson Neelam Gorhe said.
Opposing the order, the Qureshi community said their businesses will suffer heavy losses if the meat ban stays and they will approach the Mayor for its review. "If we don't get justice, we will file a writ petition in high court, go on a hunger strike and fight for our rights."