It seems that the Hindu extremist groups in the country cannot get over their preoccupation with the cow. Less than a month after Mohammad Akhlaq was battered to death by a rowdy mob in Dadri for alleged cow slaughter and beef consumption, a group of 20-odd Delhi Police officials stormed into Kerala House on Monday to check whether beef was being served at the canteen.
The ‘raid’ was triggered by a phone call from a person belonging to the right-wing fringe group Hindu Sena. Members of the group had gone visiting the place and found ‘beef fry’ scribbled in Malayalam on the board. This led them to inform the police.
The action has drawn flak from Kerala Chief Minister Oomen Chandy who termed it “unfortunate”. He has also written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting him to look into the matter. Chandy wants the PM to instruct the Union home minister to initiate action against those who trespassed into a state government property without prior intimation. The CM is of the opinion that in their excitement to address the complaint, the police ‘overstepped their authority’.
Line of Action
Delhi Police cannot just barge into any property that belongs to the state government. Home Minister of Kerala, Ramesh Chennithala, said that the incident was a reflection of the violation of the powers of the state. If rules are to be followed, the police should ideally have informed the resident commissioner of Kerala House and verified with him if beef was actually being served to the people. Instead, they rushed to the spot to conduct a raid, thereby courting political and communal controversy.
The canteen in Kerala House usually serves buffalo meat which in India is loosely referred to as ‘beef’ unlike in the West where people are more specific about “beef” and “buff”. Chandy clarified that the Kerala staff canteen serves authentic vegetarian and non-vegetarian Kerala cuisine and all the items on the menu are in accordance with the law.
Had Delhi Police known that its promptness of action would have been rewarded with such criticism, it would have pondered twice on receiving the phone call. To cover up the matter which saw several MPs from Kerala protesting outside the Kerala House, Delhi Police Commissioner BS Bassi said, “It was not a raid. It was in fact a preventive measure as per our standing operating procedures.”
The Blame Game
The BJP government which is known for its initiatives and attempts at moral policing criticized Chandy for “politicizing” the incident unnecessarily. It supported the police action saying that they were only acting on a complaint and was well within its rights under the law of the land. The statements made by BJP haven’t gone down well with the other parties.
CPI(M) Politburo member Pinarayi Vijayan said that the raid at the guest house was a Sangh Parivar agenda. “The same forces who killed Mohd Iqlakh in Dadri are behind the raid at Kerala House also. The raid at state-run guest house is a warning that they will barge into any kitchen in the country,” he said in a Facebook post. While Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal called it “an attack on federal structure”, Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, too, condemned the incident. She said it was an unwise attempt to curb the rights of people.
A country which has always been known as being tolerant, liberal and democratic is getting mired in communal issues and political disagreements every alternate day. There is no point in politicizing a trivial issue and especially when it concerns someone’s gastronomical leanings. Food is a matter of personal choice and in order to re-instate the fact meat is back on the Kerala House menu, a day after the police ‘raid’ took place.
Students defy order, screen film on beef-eating habits
Amidst opposition from authorities, a group of students at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), on Sunday, screened a documentary on the beef-eating habits prevalent in Mumbai. The film titled “Caste on the Menu Card” made its way into the ‘beef debate’ after the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting denied to issue a clearance for its screening at a certain film festival. Members of JNU’s Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students’ Association said that the administration had given them permission to hold the screening on the lawns of Sabarmati hostel but cancelled it on Sunday. The 21-minute film has been made by a group of five students of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences.