Live chicken on weighing scales, meat stalls and protests by Shiv Sena and MNS marked the first day of the meat ban in the city, forcing a BJP rethink on the controversial move that was also questioned by the Bombay high court.
The four-day ban during Paryushan Parva – an eight-day period during which members of the Jain community observe fast and pray – remained largely ineffective on Thursday with several poultry shops open for business. Fish and eggs are exempted from the ban that has pitted the BJP against alliance partner Shiv Sena.
Feeling the heat, BJP’s city chief Ashish Shelar said the party, which was pushing for an eight-day ban, would request the civic administration to reduce meatless days to two.
At the inauguration of a flyover in Borivli, at which he shared the stage with Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, Shelar appealed political parties in general and the Shiv Sena in particular to put an end to the controversy.
He said, “The BJP is not against non-vegetarians and the chief minister has given no such orders. It was a government resolution that was passed when the previous government was in power. We support a two-day ban and are not proposing an eight-day ban. The BMC should take a legal opinion on how they could implement a two-day ban. Let’s end this controversy.” Shenar, however, alleged that the controversy was politically motivated.
Thackeray said, “No one should force their religion upon me and I won’t force my religion on them either. They should not reach my kitchen.” He added, “I am ready to put an end to this controversy. We are not here to create controversies, but the ones who started it should stop first.”
On Thackeray’s orders, Shiv Sena corporators began to explore ways to reduce the ban to two days, as it used to be before 2004, when the state government extended it to four. Mayor Snehal Ambekar called for a BMC general body meeting on Friday to discuss revoking the circular that called for a four-day ban.
If the circular is revoked on Friday, there will be no ban on the sale of meat on September 13 and 18, though abattoirs will remain closed on these days. However, the ban on September 17 will remain in place, in accordance with the 2004 government resolution.
Trushna Vishwasrao, leader of the house in the BMC, said, “We have called a general body meeting [on Friday] at which the meat ban will be discussed. We are looking into how we can withdraw the circular that bans the sale of meat.”
Earlier in the day, the Shiv Sena tried to corner its alliance partner on the issue with a number of protests, which involved distributing packets of meat.
Saamna, the Shiv Sena’s mouthpiece, also published an editorial in which it mocked, criticised and even threatened the Jain community over the meat ban. “Jains must not follow the path of Muslims and become fanatics. At least Muslims have Pakistan to go to. Where will the Jains go?" read the editorial, which is believed to reflect the views of Uddhav Thackeray.
MNS chief Raj Thackeray also waded into the controversy, saying the people of Maharashtra need not follow such a ban. “Jains will not decide what we should do in Maharashtra. They want to build Jain colonies. They don’t even allow vegetarian Maharastrians in these buildings. Don’t push us to the limit,” he said.
The latest circular issued by BMC to shut down slaughterhouses and ban the sale of meat on four days during Paryushan came from a combination of resolutions passed by the BMC’s general body (in 1964 and 1994) with a government resolution issued in 2004. The ban on selling meat on September 13 and 18 is in accordance with the BMC resolutions, while the September 10 and 17 bans are in accordance with the 2004 government resolution. BMC corporators are also thinking about revisiting the 1994 resolution to limit the extent of the meat ban.
Rais Shaikh, group leader, Samjwadi Party, said, “The circular is illegal as the resolution passed by the BMC earlier doesn’t mention banning the sale of meat in municipal markets. How can the commissioner tell licensed sellers not to sell meat in municipal markets? This means bowing down to pressure from one political party."