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Meatless in Agra: Minorities Hope For Peace, But Fear Prevails

Visits by police & municipal authorities cautioning people against opening meat shops is now part of the routine.

Updated
India
4 min read
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A few kilometres apart in Agra, the minority communities have the same fears but different hopes from Yogi Adityanath. For the Muslims, his initial move has wrought havoc with their lives, while Christians see some hope despite a tempered anxiety.

For a usually bustling market, where meat shops and people constantly jostle for space with goats and stray dogs, Ghatiya wears a deserted look.

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On a rather warm March afternoon, our car is easily able to slip into the narrow lane, with rusting shutters pulled down on both sides of the meat street. More than a dozen young men sit outside the closed shops aimlessly.

The chicken cages are empty.

For at least two generations, these shops have been run by Muslim families of the locality, and several dozen families of the area depend on the shops for their survival. It has been six days since the shops were shut by the new Uttar Pradesh state government.


Visits by police & municipal authorities cautioning people against opening meat shops is now part of the routine.
Empty chicken cages outside a shut meat shop. (Photo: Priya Solomon)

“We were supposed to renew our licenses for this year in March but without any previous notice we were asked to shut our shops,” says 20-year-old Kamraan Mohammed Qureshi outside his shop. The other youngsters echoed Qureshi’s disappointment.

We tried to speak to officials but no one is helping us. What are we supposed to do now?
Kamraan Mohammed Qureshi 

“We don’t know when the business will start again,” his cousin adds.

The 12 shops in the area sell chicken, mutton and fish. Over the years, most of the shops have been butchering animals and chicken in their backyard illegally.

Local municipal officials and police had shut their eyes to the flourishing business.

Not any more, at least not for now.

Ever since the new chief minister of UP, Yogi Adityanath ordered the shut down of illegal abattoirs, there have been raids and arrests across the states. At least a few dozen people have been arrested for smuggling cattle, while many illegal slaughter houses have been sealed. Fear of majoritarian politics and vigilante groups has further added to the problem.



Visits by police & municipal authorities cautioning people against opening meat shops is now part of the routine.
Bovine silhouette. (Photo: Priya Solomon)

Jehangir Hussain, who owns a meat shop on Motilal Nehru Road, said,

“This is the first time in my 46 years that the shops have not been opened.”

Visits by police officers and municipal authorities cautioning people against opening the meat shops is now part of the routine. “Often they tell us not even sit around here,” Hussain says.

Frustration and anger is evidently building up in this popular meat street. The youngsters speak of public protests if the issues are not sorted out soon and their livelihood not restored.

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The Church Compound

In the little Christian ghetto around the St John’s Church, Lent season is a great relief. This is the season when many Christians give up meat until Easter.

For those who still need their chicken, the daily hunt just got difficult, thanks to the government move.

Many of their discussions revolve around the unpleasant communal tension that is palpable in the state. However, they also see hope.

Other residents of the colony too agree. As far as they can remember, the state has been deeply plagued by unbridled corruption and nepotism. Everything was on sale and nothing moved without bribes. Rules were meant to be flouted.

Some even find a parallel with the Emergency period: Government officials report to offices in time, even policemen can be seen cleaning up official premises.

“It is just like what we saw during Emergency,” says Mrs Vareena Dayal, a school principal who lives in the compound.

Reverend Jibrael Dass, the parish priest of St John’s Church, says the new steps will ensure the quality of the product and regulate the prices.

People don’t mind 15 days of inconvenience if this will ensure good quality of meat.


Visits by police & municipal authorities cautioning people against opening meat shops is now part of the routine.
Amul’s latest ad is on the Roadside Romeos. (Photo: Priya Solomon)
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“At this point, the move seems motivated against a particular community, this could have come a little later. The new government’s priorities should be to put law and order in place, end corruption and provide basic amenities to the people,” says Dr Neville Smith, a senior journalist and an avid watcher of the region, who lives a few kilometres away from the church compound.

“The self-styled vigilantes and volunteers should not fiddle with the situation,” he says, as he narrates the difficulties faced as he searched for chicken meat in the morning.

At his home in Sikandra, Dr Smith is worried about the combustible situation getting out of hand. He has no doubt that the state needs a strong leader who can put everything in order.

His wife, Dr Anugrah Smith, a retired school teacher added, “We welcome all decisions for the good of the people, but the peace of the place should not be disturbed.”

Outside the Church compound and the meat street, the roads are flooded with billboards congratulating the new chief minister of the state.

One hopes that the city of love would not be known for anything else.

(Priya Solomon is a Delhi-based journalist and founder of Malayalam news portal, azhimukham.com.)

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