As India’s commercial capital, Mumbai gears up for its 10-day extravaganza, the Ganapati Utsav, the sudden furore on the so called meat ban seems to be shifting the focus on a complete non-issue? You might be enraged or even feel that I am trivialising an important issue like the ‘ban on animal slaughter and sale of meat during the 4-day Jain festival ‘Paryushan’. But the fact is the violation of the inherent constitutional spirit in this decision that bothers me no end.
Neither India’s constitution nor its laws have established any clear relationship between religion and state. The law implies that the state and its institutions need to recognize and accept all religions and respect the inherent pluralism in our social construct. Infact as a country we do not have any official religion either. Then why do we need to live with this constant prodding by political parties trying to leverage religious sentiment and inciting religious sentiment? While Jains have the right to not have meat during Paryushan, I enjoy the right to have it if I want to and I am proud of being a citizen of such a tolerant country.
The problem is that political parties are trying to cash in on individual sentiment for creating petty votebanks. It is not just Paryushan for decades now we see the polity taking the lead role in dividing the country and vote banks on religious grounds. The constitution of the country have clearly indicated religion’s non-interference in state policies yet we see constant effort by political parties in appeasing select communities, demand reservations for select sects in the name of religion to create vote banks.
It is therefore in that context, the current Bombay HC decision is particularly pertinent. The Court has rightly questioned the merit of such a ban in Mumbai. It has observed, “Mumbai is a metropolitan city. Such straight ban on meat cannot be a formula. Ban is on slaughter and sale of the meat. What about other sources? What about packaged meat that is already available in the market?”
That has raised another key issue and clearly reflects the inherent hypocrisy. Just to appease a small percentage of population this decision could seriously affect the livelihood of many who do not enjoy political patronage! Another thought, what exactly is the take on the million dollar packaged food industry dealing with the bulk of slaughtered meat? Are political parties scared to take on them for fear of missing out hefty donations?