How a 35-Yr-Old Meat Ban Has Ignited Mangaluru’s Communal Tension

The ban is an old order from when there were no cold storage facilities and no supermarkets.

Published
India
4 min read
A 35-year-old order on the ban of animal slaughter and meat sale has added a fresh layer to Mangaluru’s communal problem. (Photo Courtesy: The News Minute)

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 has been observed for so many years that it should continue because for several Hindu festivals, meat is not consumed.

Enforcement Troubles

 Meat dishes being sold on the streets of Mumbai. (Photo: Reuters)
Meat dishes being sold on the streets of Mumbai. (Photo: Reuters)

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.

AB Ibrahim, Dakshina Kannada Deputy Commissioner to The News Minute

No matter how hard the administration tried, it was not possible to enforce the ban completely, 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 makes this rule meaningless in today’s times.

AB Ibrahim, Dakshina Kannada Deputy Commissioner

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.

Sharan Pumpwell, state convenor of Bajrang Dal

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 religions, 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.

The Current Conflict

Majority are meat-eaters and fish-lovers in Mangaluru. (Photo: iStockphoto)
Majority are meat-eaters and fish-lovers in Mangaluru. (Photo: iStockphoto)

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. 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 or the other 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.”

(The authors Anisha Sheth and Sarayu Srinivasan work with The News Minute. The article has been edited for length.)

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