Home Muslim religion Motive for Gujarat’s ‘ban’ on meat display

Motive for Gujarat’s ‘ban’ on meat display


Isolated incidents seem obscure. But linked, each sequence has a consequence.

On November 12, newspapers in Gujarat grabbed the headlines of “verbal” directives issued by the state’s two main municipalities, Vadodara and Rajkot, to ensure that non-vegetarian street carts remain invisible to the human eye. The reason given: it hurts religious sensibilities; an unacknowledged fact: a good part of these in the urban agglomerations belong to minorities.

Soon the municipal corporations of Junagadh and Bhavnagar gave their version of the verbal orders, and Ahmedabad also sought to raise the tone. Revenue Minister Rajendra Trivedi, a lawmaker from Vadodara, waded through the turmoil by equating these food carts on the trails with land grabbing and creating health problems.

The timing for the concerted ‘driving’ seemed to have gone terribly wrong, as the stake was raised at a time when the listing campaign under PM Street Vendor’s Atma Nirbhar Nidhi (PM SVANidhi), which covers food vendors , was in progress. The whiplash at the top was quick and sharp.

As the heat in the streets sizzled, the ruling party hesitated. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesman called it a decision made by individual civic bodies, with the party having no role to play. Realizing the potential for damage, Gujarat BJP chief CR Patil intervened to deny the minister’s statement. “He was told not to make such statements any more. Civic bodies should also not touch carts that are not an obstruction,” he said. Sounded in Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel, “People are free to eat vegetarian or non-vegetarian foods. The state government has nothing to say about it.”

All municipal corporations are controlled by the BJP and Vidhan Sabha elections are scheduled in Gujarat next year. Furthermore, Gujarat is the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Secretary Amit Shah, where no movement can escape their hawkish gaze.

Read also | Banning non-vegetarian food stalls: when Hindutva infiltrates governance

“If the problem is just hygiene, why differentiate yourself,” asks Arvind Sindha, state chairman of the National Association of Street Vendors in India, adding that this should apply at all levels. Lost in the jumble of a disguised fanaticism substituting for civic responsibility, is the fact that the converging clientele that makes these non-vegetarian carts roar late at night is predominantly Hindu.

Ahmedabad alone consumes around 150 tons of meat and fish and 15 lakh of eggs every day. There is concern within the ruling party, and enlightened opinion believes that such silly measures will hurt more than they will help it. “Jains and upper castes have long been the face of Gujarati society, but nearly half of the population does not adhere to vegetarianism, and these include OBCs, Kshatriyas, tribals, Dalits and Kolis, to name a few, ”notes scientist Gaurang Jani.

Taken in isolation, such a surge of coordinated civic activism may seem like an exception, but when viewed in order, over time, the scent of a program emerges.

The smell of an agenda

Take the case of the Disturbed Areas Law, which was first enacted in 1986 for a temporary period and replaced by a new law in 1991, which was substantially amended by the BJP government in July 2019, overturning the initial objective. Presidential assent came in 2020.

In the aftermath of the 1985 communal riots in Ahmedabad, people belonging to a digital minority in a particular area were forced to sell their properties at disposable prices to move to the safety of their communities. The law was introduced to prevent such segregation through distress selling. It empowered the government to declare riot-prone areas “disturbed,” thus requiring additional authorization and the free consent of the district collector. The aim was to prevent the catastrophic sale of properties between communities to change the mixed character of societal coexistence. With a complacent bureaucracy playing with political leaders, the goal was overthrown, resulting in the expulsion of minority residents from mixed-population areas.

No wonder the Gujarat High Court ruled on a PIL in January this year and prevented the state government from declaring any locality a “disturbed area” under this law on the grounds that it could lead to an “inappropriate grouping” of people from “a community”.

Authorities can operate in an insidious manner, preach one thing, practice just the opposite. We have a strange analogy in Gujarat that even foreigners can buy property in neighborhoods that Muslims cannot; such is the fact of this law. Interestingly, all of the BJP leaders, from the prime minister to the modest municipal representative of the ruling pyramid, are all proud of the fact that Gujarat has been largely free from communal violence. However, the area covered by the law on disturbed areas continues to increase. According to published reports, as of August 2019, 770 parts of Ahmedabad alone were declared disturbed areas. Many other areas of the state with minority settlements are also shown in the same way.

Read also | No one can be prevented from eating vegetarian food or not: Gujarat BJP

Next step: interfaith marriages

To take it a step further, move the scene in August this year, when the Gujarat High Court suspended key provisions of the Gujarat Religious Freedom (Amendment) Act 2021 regarding marriages involving religious conversion. While a larger constitutional challenge is pending, the interim suspension offers relief to interfaith couples.

Gujarat’s 2003 Religious Freedom Act was first enacted during Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s tenure following the 2002 communal riots. It was along the same lines as some other states except in under article 5 of this law, where a person wishing to convert must request the prior authorization of the district magistrate. In 2006, an amendment was passed by the ruling BJP government, which sought to redefine conversions to not include interfaith conversion of the same religion. “The amendment stipulated that Jains and Buddhists would be interpreted as denominations of the Hindu religion; Shiites and Sunnis will be interpreted as denominations of the Muslim religion; and Catholics and Protestants of Christianity. However, the amendment was withdrawn after Buddhists and Jains objected to being grouped together under the Hindu religion.

Nonetheless, the BJP government led by Vijay Rupani changed the law, overturning congressional opposition, on April 1 of this year, making it operational after the governor’s consent, from June 15. The law ostensibly seeks to end conversions by illegal means, specifically prohibiting any conversion. for marriage, even with the consent of the individual except where a prior sanction is obtained from the state. Many BJP-led states, including Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Himachal Pradesh, have enacted such laws, making the pattern clear.

The amended law shifts the burden of proof of a legal religious conversion from converts to their partner and legitimizes the intrusion of family and society to oppose interfaith marriages. The state government then sought rectification of section 5 of the amended law, which penalizes forced or fraudulent conversion through marriage, which the High Court had suspended.

The section requires priests to obtain prior permission from the district magistrate to convert anyone from one religion to another. Whoever has converted must also inform the district magistrate in a prescribed form. “We find no reason to change our order,” said a division bench consisting of Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Judge Biren Vaishnav. The state government has made known its intention to challenge the order in the Supreme Court.

Another sequence with another consequence

In April 2019, the Gujarat High Court quashed three notifications from the Gujarat government that sought to stop the export of cattle from the Tuna port in Kutch, calling it an “exercise of disguised powers” to do something that does not. cannot be done directly. A division bench of judges Harsha Devani and Bhargav Karia described the decision as “grossly illegal, unconstitutional and violating the applicants’ fundamental rights”. Several livestock exporters had sought legal redress after the state government issued orders until December 2018 banning the export of livestock, mainly sheep and goats, from tuna.

The sequence of events makes reading interesting. On December 14, 2018, CM Vijay Rupani announced that the government would not allow livestock exports from the port. On the same day, the Department of Agriculture issued a notification under Gujarat’s Essential Products and Livestock (Control) Act, prohibiting the movement of livestock from outside to any drought-affected area. Kutch had previously been declared affected by drought.

Shortly thereafter, the director of breeding informed the collector of customs that the state government had decided to withdraw the services provided for the health checks of animals to be exported and would not allow the export of live animals until the specified date (control-top) the facility has been created. On the same day, the Home Office ordered police in Kutch to set up checkpoints to monitor the transport of animals, the High Court noted. He added that “the intention was to ban the export which is otherwise not subject to the state”. The state government requested a stay of the Supreme Court’s removal order, but no stay was granted.

Note that tuna cattle exports in 2016-2017 and 2017-18 had crossed seven head of lakh. Therefore, the state government had to be well aware of the heavy economic loss that the Eid ban would cause exporters in addition to the loss of face, but it nonchalantly went ahead. Why?

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of DH.