BBC News – Is India’s ban on cattle slaughter ‘food fascism’?

A lawmaker from India’s southern state of Kerala has announced that he is returning to eating meat, fish and eggs after practising vegetarianism for nearly two decades.

Soutik Biswas, India correspondent

New Delhi, 2 June 2017. There’s nothing unusual about a lapsed vegetarian but V T Balram said his decision was prompted by the federal Hindu nationalist BJP government’s attempt to seize the people’s right to eat what they wanted.

“I have been living without eating meat, fish or eggs since 1998. But now the time has come break it and uphold the right politics of food assertively,” Mr Balram said, while posting a video of him eating beef with friends and fellow party workers.

The BJP believes that cows should be protected, because they are considered holy by India’s majority Hindu population. Some 18 Indian states have already banned slaughter of cattle.

But millions of Indians, including Dalits (formerly untouchables), Muslims and Christians, consume beef.

And it’s another matter, say many, that there’s no outrage against the routine selling of male calves by Hindu farmers and pastoralists to middlemen for slaughter as the animals are of little use, bullocks have been phased out by tractors in much of rural India, and villagers need to rear only the occasional bull.

Ironically, the cow has become a polarising animal. Two years ago, a mob attacked a man and killed him over “rumours” that his family ate beef. Vigilante cow protection groups, operating with impunity, have killed people for transporting cattle.

More recently, the chief of BJP’s powerful ideological fountainhead Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (National Volunteers’ Organisation) has called for a countrywide ban on the slaughter of cows. And this week, a senior judge said the cow should be declared a national animal and people who slaughter cows should be sentenced to life in prison.

Many say this is all contributing to effectively killing India’s thriving buffalo meat trade.

Earlier this week, several Indian states opposed the federal government’s decision to ban the sale of cattle for slaughter at livestock markets. The government said the order was aimed at preventing uncontrolled and unregulated animal trade.

But the ban, say many, could end up hurting some $4bn (£3.11bn) in annual beef exports and millions of jobs. There are some 190 million cattle in India, and tens of millions “go out of the system”, die or need to be slaughtered – every year. How will poor farmers sell their animals?

So, as lawyer Gautam Bhatia says, the new rules are “perceived as imposing an indirect beef ban”. He believes the government will find it difficult to defend them if they are challenged in the court, one state court, responding to a petition that they violate the right of a person to chose what he eats, has already put the ban on hold.

The badly-drafted rules, Mr Bhatia says, are “an opportunity for citizens and courts to think once again whether the prescription of food choices is consistent with a Constitution that promises economic and social liberty to all”.

‘Dietary profiling’

Critics have been calling the beef ban an example of “dietary profiling” and “food fascism”. Others say it smacks of cultural imperialism, and is a brazen attack on India’s secularism and constitutional values. Don’t laugh, but there could be a conspiracy to turn India vegetarian, screamed a recent headline.

Many believe that the BJP, under Narendra Modi, appears to be completely out of depth with India’s widely diverse food practices which have always been distinguished by religion, region, caste, class, age and gender.

Indians now eat more meat, including beef, cow and buffalo meat, than ever. Consumption of beef grew up 14% in cities, and 35% in villages, according to government data analysed by IndiaSpend, a non-profit data journalism initiative.

Beef is the preferred meat in north-eastern states like Nagaland and Meghalaya. According to National Sample Survey data, 42% Indians describe themselves as vegetarians who don’t eat eggs, fish or meat; another baseline government survey showed 71% of Indians over the age of 15 are non-vegetarian.

Governments have tried to impose food bans and choices around the world, mostly using health and environment concerns and hygiene concerns.

In the US, for example, groups have rallied against subsidised vegetables, outlawing large sodas, promotion of organic food and taxing fat. Bangkok is banning street food to clean up streets and enforce hygiene standards.

India has done the same in the past. Crops like BT brinjal have been stalled by the government and industrially manufactured food like Maggi noodles banned temporarily amid claims they contained dangerously high levels of lead.
Scarcity has also led to bans, a ban of milk sweets in the 1970s in Delhi was justified because milk used to be in short supply.

‘Unfit animals’

“To the extent that this ban on cattle slaughter justifies itself by speaking of ‘unfit and infected cattle’, it seems to invoke public health, but then stops short by not banning the sale of goats, sheep and chicken as well,” sociologist Amita Baviskar told me.

“In fact, the public health argument leads logically to a move towards better regulation like stricter checking of animals for disease, more hygienic slaughter and storage of meat rather than a flat-out ban.”

Clearly, the ban appears to be working already.

“Selling red meat, even goat meat, in a BJP-ruled state is now injurious to one’s health. Who would want to risk the wrath of the vigilantes?,” says Dr Baviskar.

As it is, she says, meat-eating habits of Indians have been changing rapidly in the last couple of decades and the chicken, once regarded as a “dirty bird”, is now the most popular meat.

“I see a greater polarisation taking place between red states (meat-eating) and white states (chicken eating) Within the white states, meat-eaters will have to skulk about, looking over their shoulder as they bite into a beef kebab”.


The Tribune – Unique Partition museum to boost tourism in Amritsar, says Sidhu

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, 6 June 2017. The Amarinder Singh government has welcomed the launch of a unique initiative to commemorate August 17 as Partition Remembrance Day in memory of those, especially from Punjab and Bengal, who lost everything to Partition but went on to build a new India with their indomitable spirit and resilience.

The government will extend all support to the Arts and Cultural Heritage Trust, which is setting up the world’s Partition Museum at Town Hall in Amritsar to mark the event on 17 August, Minister for Culture and Tourism Navjot Singh Sidhu told mediapersons here.

The museum will contribute significantly to further boosting tourism in Amritsar, he added.

The inauguration of the museum, which will be attended by Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, will be preceded by a unique online campaign ‘Chalo Amritsar 17 August 2017, for Partition Remembrance Day’.

Several high-level national and international dignitaries, with a large number of NRIs from Partition-affected families, are expected to be present at the inauguration of the museum that will narrate the story of the triumph of the hope of the Partition survivors over despair, noted author and columnist, and the Chair of the Trust, Kishwar Desai, said.

The inaugural event will be followed by an evening of Sufi music, under the Aegis of the Arts and Literature Festival of Amritsar (ALFA), and a nostalgic recreation of the pre-1947 streets of Amritsar and Lahore, with street food and other memorabilia. The function will be open to the public.

Gare de Liège Guillemins – Gentbrugge Watertoren

Gare de Liège Guillemins
30 April 2017

L train to Landen

IC to take me back to Gent
Siemens Engine

Inside the comfortable carriages

Gentbrugge Watertoren to Dienstencentrum
01 May 2017

Gentbrugge Watertoren

Gentbrugge Watertoren

Gentbrugge Watertorenstraat
Gent-Sint-Pieters – Gentbrugge – Gent Dampoort railway

To see all my pictures:

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

Business Recorder – Hundreds of Indian Sikh yatrees to arrive on 8 June

Parvez Jabri

Lahore, 6 June 2017. Evacuee Trust Property Board (BTPB) Chairman Muhammad Siddiqul Farooq, board officials and Sikh leaders will receive the Yatrees warmly at Wagah Railway Station.

According to the schedule, after arrival, the Sikh pilgrims will leave for Gurdwara Panja Sahib, Hassanabdal, and stay there for two days and perform their religious rituals.

The Yatrees will go to Gurdwara Janam Asthan Nankana Sahib on June 19 where they will stay for three days and perform their religious rituals. Then they will leave for Sacha Sauda, Farooqabad, on June 12. On the same day, the Yatrees will return back to Nankana Sahib. They will go to Gurdwara Dera Sahib in Lahore on June 13 by special train.

The central celebrations will be held here at Gurdwara Dera Sahib on June 16 in which Sikh Yatrees will perform their religious rituals. They will go back to their homeland on 17 June.

The Hindu – Young leaders seek an end to mob lynching

Warn of nation-wide protest if government fails to act

New Delhi, 05 June 2017. A group of young leaders with varied political affiliations and social ambitions, divided by their differing economic world views but, as they stressed, united by their commitment to the Constitution, came together on Monday to seek an end to mob lynching in the country and a new law that will make this possible.

They also gently warned the Modi government that if this did not happen by 11 July, the first anniversary of the brutal attack on Dalits in Gujerat’s Una, they would launch a countrywide protest starting in Una.

They would also ensure that cattle traders and dairy farmers camped outside the Prime Minister’s residence in the national capital with their cattle.

On Monday, former JNU president and CPI member Kanhaiyya Kumar; JNU vice president Shehla Rashid; AISA member, Dalit leader Jignesh Mewani; and businessman Tehseen Poonawala, whose brother Shehzad is in the Congress, came together on a common platform at the Constitution Club here to make this announcement.

The group even announced the names of the members of the committee they have formed to draw up a draft law, they include lawyers Sanjay Hegde and Rebecca John, academics Apoorvanand, Nivedita Menon V Geetha and Manoj Jha (the last named is from the RJD), actress Swara Bhaskar, and sister of missing JNU student Najeeb, Sadaf Musharaf.

A real danger

“We are already in touch with the Opposition parties and chief ministers on the law that we have proposed,” said Mr. Poonawalla, who presided on the occasion. “We want it passed by 11 July”.

Kanhaiyya Kumar, clearly the star of the show, said it was sometimes important to throw stones into still water. “…It gets stagnant… we want to stress that this is not a communal issue, but one that concerns every citizen.

People are being attacked in the name of identity, on the basis of the food they eat or because of whom they choose to love. They need protection”.

Just as it was important to preserve biodiversity, it was equally important to preserve social diversity. “Look at Tehseen, he gives jobs, and look at me, I need a job. Yet we have come together on a common platform,” he said.

Jignesh Mewani explained why they were campaigning for a new law. “People might say that this could be dealt with by the provisions of the Indian Penal Code, which is true. But there are precedents: there was a special law enacted to protect Dalits and tribals (the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act); similarly, we need a special law now”.