By Maithili Parikh:
Mumbai is perhaps the most cosmopolitan city in India, popular amongst tourists, home to numerous financial bigwigs, known for a diversity that no other Indian city can boast of, and not to mention one of the ‘second homes’ of Prime Minister Modi. On September 8, The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, driven by the Bhartiya Janata Party, undermined this diversity considerably, shocking its residents with a ban on sale and slaughter of meat for 4 days during the week long Jain fast, Paryushan. People may question my verbal onslaught (not meat slaughter) as uncanny considering I am a Jain, who quite religiously follows Paryushan every year. But before the attacks on my faith begin, it would only be logical to note that non-Jains eating meat would in no way bother my ability to practice my religion. Hence please do not dismiss this as a rant on liberty, instead think of it as an insider’s perspective, from a young adult, who sincerely believed Modi’s dreamy promises, when she voted for the first time, and genuinely felt her vote would count and liberalise India from all regressive thinking, synonymous with incumbency.
The Indian Constitution recognizes minority religions and the freedom to practice any religion, respecting one and all religions, but it also contains in spirit and letter, the freedom of life and liberty which includes our choice in what we eat. It would be ludicrous to suggest that an Indian citizen, having to part with their decision making power regarding the food they eat, purely because one community observes a fast, is not violating their fundamental rights. The meat ban, imposed months after the controversial beef ban, has ignited resentment in the public at large, and in my opinion extremist decisions of this sort create divisions between the people of the country. The decision to ban meat by BMC was effected just a few days after the Mira-Bhayander Municipal Corporation’s meaty (or in this case veggie) decision to ban the sale of meat for 8 days in the city. The BMC’s ban was largely influenced by the Bhartiya Janata Party’s demand to ban the sale of meat and functioning of slaughterhouses during the entire period of Paryushan after senior BJP Legislators met the BMC Chief Ajoy Mehta in this regard. Deciding what food to consume is purely a personal decision and no vote bank politics can undermine this decision of every free citizen. What next? Will all Mumbaikars be expected to fast during Ramzan and eat only fruits during fasts followed by Hindus?
Respecting religions is a revered concept and I am delighted that the Government has decided to rever this holy time for Jains like myself, but there is something awfully dangerous about a Government that wants to dictate the food you consume. Wait, am I going to be sent to Tihar, for sedition, for criticizing this decision? I hear prisons are not so hospitable to Jains following Paryushan.