MUMBAI: A four-day ban on selling meat in Mumbai has been imposed by civic body with the backing of BJP during Jain community's upcoming fasting period, drawing stiff opposition from various quarters, including ally Shiv Sena which decried it as "appeasement" and "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 prohibiting meat sale for eight days from September 11 to 18 when the Jain community will observe fasting period 'Paryushan'. According to the order passed by BMC -- ruled by Sena and BJP-- yesterday, 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 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 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.
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 it 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 it 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."
Civic officials said if the ban is violated, stern action will be taken. The BMC's decision came after BJP-ruled Mira Bhayander Municipal Corporation (MBMC) last week banned meat sale for eight days during the fasting period of Jains.
Mumbai BJP unit's general secretary Amarjeet Mishra said the ban is not against any particular religion or section.
"Not only BJP leaders, but several Jain organisations had written to the BMC demanding an eight-day ban on the sale of meat. The administration took decision to ban meat sale for four days only and it not against any particular religion or section," Mishra said. Party MLA Ashish Shelar said the BJP-led government had no role in it and the decision was taken at the civic body level.
"In a democracy, a government imposing restrictions on consumption of some type of food is wrong. But BJP government has put no such ban across Maharashtra.... "This tradition of banning meat for four days has been continuing for last five years and those speaking against it were holding power in the municipal corporation," he said.
The civic officials explained that the decision to ban sale of meat has been taken based on corporation resolutions passed in 1964 and 1994 and the state government's 2004 resolution on the issue.
This is not the first time that the BJP has asked for ban on sale of meat in Mumbai during the 'Paryushan' period. The party leaders have been demanding it for the last couple of years.