How a 35-year-old meat ban order has added a fresh layer to Mangaluru’s communal problem

It's old order, from back when there were no cold storage facilities, and no supermarkets
How a 35-year-old meat ban order has added a fresh layer to Mangaluru’s communal problem
How a 35-year-old meat ban order has added a fresh layer to Mangaluru’s communal problem

A 35-year-old order on the ban of animal slaughter and meat sale, based on a request from a religious group, has bizarrely added a fresh layer to Mangaluru’s communal problem.

On December 15, 2015, Dakshina Kannada Deputy Commissioner AB Ibrahim wrote to the Principal Secretary of the Urban Development Department urging that the prohibition of the sale of certain meat and slaughter of animals on certain days be reconsidered.

State convener of the Bajrang Dal, Sharan Pumpwell however, says that the ban was being observed for so many years and that it should continue because for several Hindu festivals, meat was not consumed.

However, the meat ban order was not originally made with Hindu festivals in mind.

Enforcement troubles

According to a government circular UD 65 GCL 7 dated January 8, 1979, the slaughter of animals and sale of meat was prohibited for 11 days, including Gandhi Jayanti, Ambedkar Jayanti, Mahashivrathri, Krishna Janmastami.

In his letter, Ibrahim lists several reasons to reconsider the ban. While cultural reasons too figure on that list, the bulk of his argument centres on the logistic difficulties which were aggravated by changes in lifestyle.

Ibrahim said that the ban was either inconsistent with or unrelated to the majority of the people in the district. For instance, the Ramalinga Adigalar Memorial Day had no resonance with the people of the district, he said.

He also said that there were no Buddhists in the district. “People question the district administration when the ban is enforced on Buddha Jayanti,” he said, adding that several Dalit groups and other followers of Ambedkar have argued that eating meat is their right and that they oppose the ban on the occasion of Ambedkar Jayanti.

Addressing administrative difficulties, Ibrahim said that the ban had been imposed at a time when cold storage facilities were not available.

“E​very meat shop now is equipped with cold storage. They use this as a defence to claim that they did not violate the order by slaughtering on the festival day,” Ibrahim told The News Minute. No matter how hard the administration tried, it was not possible to enforce the ban completely, he added.

“Some shop owners get into altercations with the police who are patrolling to check for meat shop owners breaching the order. They often question that ‘If people are ready to buy, then what is the point of the order?” which is a valid question in my opinion,” he said, adding that the animal slaughter and meat sale ban applies only to mutton and beef.

He added: “When it comes to checking bars or restaurants, we don’t know whether they are cooking beef or chicken. There are so many loopholes which really make this rule meaningless in today’s times,” he added.

Asked about this, state convenor of Bajrang Dal Sharan Pumpwell said: “People can do what they want at home, but it is the failure of the government if they say they can’t enforce the ban. The DC is not acting like a government official. He is acting like a representative of the Muslim community.”

No Buddhists?

Claiming that he had a copy of the letter, Sharan said, “The DC has said that Dalits are being converted to Buddhism. That is an insult to Dalits. There is no Buddhist here, let him specify who is a Buddhist.”

In stating that there were no Buddhists in the district, both Sharan and Ibrahim are wrong. According to the 2011 Census, there are 445 Buddhists in the district. Most of them are Dalits who have “embraced” Buddhism, according to D Krishnanda, a Dalit activist.

Rubbishing allegations of conversion, Krishnanda said: “After studying various religious, Ambedkar decided to embrace Buddhism, but he never said he was converting. Ambedkar said he was returning to the ‘mother-faith’ (original faith).”

He said that Dalits were all non-vegetarians and that “using Ambedkar Jayanti as an excuse to ban meat was not right”. “What is the reason to ban meat in the first place? Who is the government trying to please by this?” Krishnananda asked.

Original request

The original 1979 circular was issued in response to a request by the Shri Vardhaman Sthanakvasi Jain Shravak Sangh, an all-India organization.

The subject of the circular says: “Proceedings of the 2577th Mahaveer Jayanthi  - declaring meatless days in the state” and directs the state government to ensure the “closure of all slaughter houses and prohibit the sale of meat on the above days” in municipalities and city corporation limits.

Babulal Jain (70), president of the organization’s Gadag unit, was surprised when he learned that the Sangh’s name was mentioned in the order. He told The News Minute “We had written to the Karnataka government requesting a ban on the slaughter of animals and sale of meat, but we did not get a reply.”

The current conflict

In his letter, Ibrahim notes that there were exceptions to the sale of meat: fish, chicken and eggs. Ibrahim told The News Minute he has no idea why these were exempt and why the ban applies to mutton and beef.

In the context of a communally sensitive city, this situation has given rise to a curious situation. Sea food is probably the most popular food consumed in the district is also one which is relished by people of all religions. Chicken is also popular, but beef and pork are associated with Muslims and Christians although Hindus are also known to relish it. Of all the communities in the district, only Jain and Brahmin communities are identified as vegetarian, while the majority are meat-eaters and fish-lovers. The 2011 Census records 10,397 Jains in the district.

Asked whether a ban was not illogical in such a culture, Sharan said: “All the time there is some other the skirmish here. We keep saying that cow slaughter is causing communal tension here, but will they ban cow slaughter? The meat merchant lobby is behind this.”

Ibrahim however, maintains: “I have a law and order problem to deal with here. We cannot enforce the ban completely. It is not possible for us to do so. Because of this, groups who want to do moral policing keep creating trouble that (certain meats) are being sold here or there.”

Asked why this was not included in the letter, Ibrahim said, “I will do this next time. I have not received a response from the government yet, but I will raise this the next time.”

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