Dietary Guidelines

MNS meat protest

World’s least fun barbecue

You may remember that a while back the Indian state of Maharashtra banned beef:

The state that includes Mumbai, India’s financial capital, this week became the latest state to ban the possession and sale of beef, imposing fines and up to five years in prison for violations.

The ban in the populous western state of Maharashtra, which was passed Monday, came as an amendment to a 1972 law prohibiting the slaughter of cows, which has been expanded to ban the slaughter of bulls, bullocks and calves. The slaughter of water buffaloes will still be allowed, subject to permission from the authorities.

The Maharashtra Animal Preservation bill, championed by right-wing Hindu organizations, was first passed in 1995 but languished for two decades under a governing coalition between the Indian National Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party. The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party was the clear winner in state elections last Octoberafter Narendra Modi, the party’s leader, took office as prime minister in May.


The protection of cows is a volatile subject in India, where the animals are revered by the majority-Hindu population. Nearly all of India’s states already have provisions restricting or banning cow slaughter. In addition, the state of Gujarat, Mr. Modi’s home base, bans the sale, purchase and transportation of beef, and Madhya Pradesh State prohibits beef consumption and transportation. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s election manifesto included promises to work toward “the protection and promotion of cow and its progeny.”


It is well-known that Narendra Modi is vegetarian, something which – in theory if not in practice – has connotations of moral and religious purity. With the growth of Hindu nationalism, the question of what you eat has taken on a renewed political significance.

So you’d think that the Hindu nationalists would be really happy that Bombay banned the sale of meat for four days this month out of respect for a Jain festival.

Not so much.

The photo above shows members of the MNS, a far right Marathi nationalist party, cooking meat outside a Jain temple in protest. (Also, is it just me or is that the nastiest chicken you’ve ever seen? It looks like it died of syphillis. If you want to convince people to turn vegetarian, that’s a good start right there.) They’re holier than thou, but no holier than that.

The young, secular, urban middle classes for their part, tend to veer between cynicism and depression with regard to the whole spectacle.


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