From beef to beep: Organisers change name of festival in Kolkata after ‘threats’
Organisers of a ‘beef festival’ in Kolkata have said they were forced to rename the event after they allegedly received phone calls threatening agitation at the venue if its theme was not changed.
The daylong event scheduled on June 23 on the lawn of a hotel on Sudder Street in central Kolkata was announced by The Accidental Note on social media late on May 30. The organisers named it as ‘Kolkata Beef Festival and changed it to ‘Kolkata Beep* Festival’ on Tuesday.
The Accidental Note, an agency that has only organised some music events in the past, has not lodged any police complaint about receiving threat calls.
“However, after receiving numerous calls from people who identified themselves as members of the Bajrang Dal and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and threatened to stage agitations if only beef remained the theme of the festival, we decided to rename it,” Arjun Kar, 24, one of the organisers said.
The Facebook page for the festival describes it as the “craziest meat extravaganza in town! ”.
“The Accidental Note is hosting the Kolkata Beef Festival to celebrate a wide variety of beef dishes not commonly available to the foodies of this city, ranging from beef tenderloin, beef back ribs, beef bolognese pasta, to burgers and steaks! We will also feature a wide range of Pork items to make it even better for all of us!”
The organisers later explained the renaming of the event in a note on the Facebook page.
“For very obvious reasons we had no choice but to change the name. The Accidental Note does not make food political. The objective of the event is to provide a day full of some amazing food and let everyone have a good time,” the note said.
“... We intend on making this event a success by providing the best possible experience to people without any compromise,” it said.
On being asked why the festival was named after beef when pork was also slated to be served, Kar said, “The festival has been named so because beef items are the speciality. The next event was supposed to have beef items, too, even though named after pork.”
“The beef dishes we are offering aren’t usually available in Kolkata. We decided a chain of three food festivals. The one on beef was to be followed by one on pork and one on Hilsa fish,” Kar said.
The initial venue in south Kolkata has also been changed to a larger place in central Kolkata after several hundred foodies expressed their willingness to join the event. At least 1,070 people have pressed the ‘going’ button on the Facebook page and more than 4,000 have shown interest in the festival.
The BJP’s state unit president and Midnapore MP Dilip Ghosh said he was not aware of any worker of his party threatening the organisers.
“Those who championed beef eating culture have all lost in the elections. The people of Bengal are no longer taking such provocative acts lightly. Eat whatever you want at your home but why do you advertise or need to make it a festival? Isn’t it creating provocations?” Ghosh asked.
Ghosh was referring to the controversy around a beef festival held on the streets in the city’s heart of Esplanade area in October 2015. Former Kolkata mayor and Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya and poet Subodh Sarkar, a known Trinamool Congress supporter, were the key faces at the festival.
Bhattacharya contested the Lok Sabha elections from Jadavpur constituency this year and stood third, after the TMC and BJP.
Following the 2015 beef festival, BJP leaders in West Bengal had alleged that organisers excluded pork from the menu to appease a particular community.