Spelling Out Diet Can't be Government's Concern
Food habits are more often than not linked to geography and ground reality than faith and belief. Many refugees from Syria would perhaps eat whatever they can lay their hands on rather than follow what is spelt out in the scriptures. An Indian from the fertile plains of the Ganges might swear by a vegetarian diet, but another from the nation’s long coastal belt would be much less enthused if a ban on non-vegetarian diet were to be imposed. For the latter, the most plentiful in availability and one which offers adequate nourishment at an affordable price, by all accounts, cannot but be sea food.
While vegetarianism is catching up in a big way globally, the fact remains that even in India, the numbers are skewed in favour of the non-vegetarians. That the state machinery has not been able to make a wide variety of vegetables and fruits affordable to the common man does not help matters when non-vegetarian food is banned, as has happened with the meat ban in Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Jammu and Kashmir. At the political level, the meat ban could only touch a raw nerve in the already fragile fabric of communal harmony. Misplaced or not, the fear would only grow that the BJP-led government is out to impose its beliefs on the Indian psyche. In Maharashtra, it has long been a practice to close most abattoirs for a couple of days out of respect for the Jains and their festival of forgiveness Paryushan. But an official ban by the BJP-led civic body in Mumbai seems uncalled for.
Just as no western country would ban meat during the lent season or any West Asian nation during the run-up to Ramzan, neither should India during any religious festivities. The collateral damage to the country’s standing as the world’s largest democracy that values its diversity and respects individual freedom would be immense. The recent spate of bans imposed on sale and consumption of meat by various state governments has all the makings of Talibanism of a different genre. Unless great care is taken, the world could as well be accusing India of culinary terrorism. Surely, with a number of critical issues plaguing our economy, spelling out the diet of its population cannot be the primary concern for any government.