Ban Is A Bane
The people have reacted in large numbers unlike during earlier bans. People are now very conscious and do not hesitate to express their views. Most were happy when the Bombay High Court declared the ban in Mumbai illegal. The Bombay High Court rejected the controversial ban on sale of meat in Mumbai on September 14 in connection with the Jain community’s fasting season Paryushan, asking why the restriction is only on mutton and chicken and not on fish and eggs
A group of ministers headed by the Prime Minister in their wisdom decide what 1.28 billion people should eat, drink, read and how to behave. Such nanny like attitude is not the monopoly of any particular political party but has been shown by all parties across the political spectrum. Our addiction to ban has resulted in huge numbers of them. Rajiv Gandhi government has the dubious distinction of being the first in the world to ban Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses. Did Rajiv gain anything? Nothing substantial!
But these days everything is given political and religious orientation. Meat ban is most apt for converting it into an ideological and communal move. As Muslims like meat everyday, they will, particularly those who are in low income group and don’t have a fridge, suffer. Who will be happy? Possibly a minority of people! In today’s globalised world, the young in vegetarian community like Jains, and who have lived abroad, are no longer very strict about not eating meat.
In fact, why meat ban is promulgated, if say on Ganesh Chaturdashi, someone who does not eat meat that day, would not take it even if the meat is on sale. Yes those, who do eat meat even on a festival, would not be inconvenienced. Bans are, in fact, a bane but they are not new to India. And it is not only meat that has been banned from time to time in different states, but books, sale of alcohol and beef and social, cultural and political outfits have had to shut from time to time their doors since Independence. The meat, for, instance, according to former Congress minister in Rajasthan and a Jain veteran, is being banned for decades during Jain festivals of Paryushan, Samvatsari and Anant Chaturdashi.
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor slammed the Bharatiya Janata Party for banning meat to appease a particular section of the society. He later had to eat his words as he found out the order to ban meat was issued by his own party back in 2004. On every public issue, political parties get involved without invitation by public. Why do they keep mum on price hike of commodities, toll taxes and other national problems?
Maggi was banned by several states, thereafter there is ban on meat, one day whether ban will be put on drinking water, drinking liquor, cold drinks, etc. India is a country of several religions, such ban may prejudice affected people, who will be voting in elections against supporters of banning party.
But, the people have reacted in large numbers unlike during earlier bans. People are now very conscious and do not hesitate to express their views. Most were happy when the Bombay High Court declared the ban in Mumbai illegal. The Bombay High Court rejected the controversial ban on sale of meat in Mumbai on September 14 in connection with the Jain community’s fasting season Paryushan, asking why the restriction is only on mutton and chicken and not on fish and eggs.
“If it is a question of practice of non-violence by the Jain community, then why only mutton and chicken have been included in the ban and not fish and eggs?” the court asked the ban, an issue which has kicked up a political storm with questions being raised on intrusion into eating habits of people.
As the matter reached the High Court with the city meat sellers’ body challenging it, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) had dropped the two-day ban it imposed, apart from the two days of ban on slaughter and sale of mutton and chicken clamped by the state government.
The High Court, however, refused to intervene on the issue of ban on slaughter and closure of abattoirs on the day in question and made it clear that the stay will be limited to Mumbai alone though a similar measure has been imposed in the adjoining Mira-Bhayander and Navi Mumbai towns. A division bench of Justices Anoop V Mohta and Amjad Sayyed in their order also noted that though the Maharashtra government had issued a circular as back as 2004 banning meat sale for two days it was never implemented “in its true sense.”
The court, which had taken a sharp critical view of the issue right from the start and made some stinging remarks during the hearing. It said there had been inconsistency in the stands of MCGM and the state government. The state government had on September 7, 2004, issued a circular stating that for two days during the ‘Paryushan’ festival there will be closure of abattoirs and ban on slaughter and sale of meat.
“Although the circular was of 2004, we are very clear that the MCGM never fully implemented the ban on sale of meat. It never insisted on this (ban on sale of meat), but only insisted on closure of abattoirs,” the court said. “We are only going by the law and not dealing with this matter via-a-vis sentiments and political things,” the judges further observed. The court posted the petition for final hearing after four weeks.
While MCGM announced ban on sale of meet and closure of abattoirs for 13 and 18 September the state government had banned it further for 10 and 17 September. The civic body, however, withdrew the ban last week through a resolution adopted by an emergency meeting of its elected council and informed the High Court of its decision.
Barring the BJP, major parties including Shiv Sena, which is the dominant ruling partner in the MCGM, had opposed the ban. The Sena as well as Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) hit the street on September 10 defying the ban. The court, while staying the ban on sale of meat, also questioned as to why the Jain community wants to practice non-violence only on some days. “You (Jains) do not have a problem if slaughter of animals is done on some days. If ahimsa (non-violence) is on your mind, then why this alternate day permission?” the court asked.
The bench also said the government should inform public in advance about such decisions. “At the eleventh hour people come to know and it creates complications. Sudden imposition, especially on eating habits is not correct.” The court, while admitting the petition, said it was going to frame certain issues that will have to be considered during final hearing of the matter.
The issues include whether a mere representation of a religious group practicing vegetarianism is sufficient to declare ban on sale of meat and closure of abattoirs, whether before declaring such bans, an opportunity and hearing need to be given to parties concerned, whether such action amounts to discrimination between religions and whether sentiments of a particular community practicing non-violence can be restricted only to slaughter of meat and not to fish and eggs. The court will also consider if such a ban is correct in a metropolitan or cosmopolitan city and if it amounts to violation of the fundamental rights of people and if one religion can be given preference over others.
The meat ban, as said before, is nothing new, but it faces an agitated public discussion because it has been given political tinge by the usual suspects, intelligentsia, Left and the media, who have been trying to give it a communal tinge. But there have been other bans, and none of them have any logic nor they have been of any help to anyone. I recall late Foreign Seceretary S K Singh asking me to meet me for a drink at India International Centre. When we went to the bar, it was closed. The notice informed that the closure was due to the death of a very distinguished leader.
What followed; we went to a common friend in Shanti Niketan where slowly more friends joined in. We did discuss the deceased leader for about 15 minutes and then it was all like any normal evening. Others would not tell, but there were parties after Mrs Gandhi lost her election in 1977.
On October 2, bars are closed, does it lead to more people paying their respect by attending symposiums, seminars? None devote time to read about the Gandhi’s values, or teachings. I am sure like us, when school would suddenly be closed due to some obituary, most rush to some movie.
Indeed most bans are counter-productive, whether it is about meat, drinks, porns or books, which are likely to hurt some caste or community. But politicians are now addicted to it, they feel bans endear to them to the section in which they are not that known. The government following Supreme Court order snipped over 700 porn sites which included adult sites. The ban proved counter-productive, porn business increased and the porns became costlier.
Many films have been bad. But what really happens that illegal videos of these cost double and more see the film than if it was not banned. To return to the present bans, we find that the gulf between those who want it and those who are against it has widened, but the number of those who don’t care if ban has been imposed or not is huge.
Times have changed, except the religious bigots or those politicians who want to gain through by getting the support of the section behind the ban. The ban was justified on the ground that Jains would feel bad if goats were slaughtered. But Jains remain vegetarian throughout the year, and goats are slaughtered throughout the year too. There is hardly any logic.
In fact there is no logic banning anything. But because now religion and politics are being mixed sall the time, bans will continue—logic or no logic.
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Bans Have Included
First book, Rangeela Rasul, was banned in 1924. Since then hundreds of books like Land of the Lingham have been banned, the most famous being Satanic Verses. Reasons include libelous, blasphemous or too critical of the political ideology of the powers that be.
The first film to be banned was Bhakta Vidur in 1921. It came out soon after Jallianwallah Bagh. Since then many films like Apsara and Garam Hawa have been banned because we were considered too gullible and accept whatever the film is projecting.
They are the first casualty. They have to close down whenever a VIP dies, or near polling days and if there is a riot. In many places, they are closed on Tuesdays.
By Vijay Dutt