11/18/2021, 16.20
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Four cities in Gujarat ban non-vegetarian street food

by Nirmala Carvalho

Eating habits are targeted in Hindu nationalist strongholds. Local authorities claim that non-vegetarian food vendors cause traffic snarls and “offend religious sentiments”. Yet, about 71 per cent of India’s population consumes non-vegetarian food. A member of the Indian Social Institute says that the goal is to “impose one culture, one religion, one ideology”.

Ahmedabad (AsiaNews) – Four municipalities in Gujarat, the state from which Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hails, have adopted bylaws banning the preparation and display of non-vegetarian food in public.

Municipal authorities in Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Vadodara, and Bhavnagar ordered the removal of non-vegetarian food carts from their main streets claiming that meat, fish and eggs offend religious feelings and food carts cause traffic snarls. The bans will remain in place until the roadside carts are "properly covered".

In India, strict vegetarians are a minority. India's Sample Registration System Baseline Survey 2014 found that 71 per cent of the population ate non-vegetarian food.

As for causing traffic problems, Hindu extremists use the issue as a pretext against religious minorities. In Gurugram, a city in Haryana, a state ruled by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Muslim Friday prayers were banned for that same reason.

However, Article 21 of the Indian Constitution protects personal freedom and Article 301 upholds freedom to trade, according to Benjamin Bara, a researcher at the Indian Social Institute in Delhi.

“If the carts and stalls are not following a protocol, or their food quality is creating severe problems to the health of citizens, then a proper warning should be given,” Bara told AsiaNews. “Removing all the stalls from a lane is not the solution but poses a serious threat to people's livelihood,” not to mention a service to the public.

For Jesuit Fr Vincent Ekka, also of the Indian Social Institute, such bylaws are a “violation of human rights” as well as “people’s right to a livelihood.” What is more, they target “a particular community to curtail their right to sell and eat non-vegetarian food.”

In a multicultural society like India, attacking eating habits “is part of a broader discourse” and an “attempt to impose one culture, one religion, one ideology, etc.” This “is very dangerous for a country like India” and its democracy.

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