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Maya govt bans sale of meat; withdraws order later

By Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow
August 18, 2009 16:54 IST
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Though late in the day, the Mayawati government in Uttar Pradesh on Tuesday hastily withdrew its own order banning sale of meat for nine days with effect from Monday night.

The order was sought to be enforced aggressively with effect from Monday night, when cops went about forcing closure of all non-vegetarian eating joints in Lucknow, Kanpur and a few other cities across the state.

Interestingly, what came in handy for the UP government to issue such a missive was a 17-month old order of the Supreme Court. And what was worse that neither the UP bureaucracy nor the chief minister cared to even find out whether the apex court order was applicable to UP or not.

The withdrawal order came only after realisation dawned on the government that it would invite widespread criticism from Muslim quarters. That was amply demonstrated in the hue and cry that was raised by UP Meat Sellers Association, who threatened to stage street demonstrations and road-blocks to mark their protest.

Prominent Islamic clerics and Muslims had also taken serious affront to the move, in view of the approaching holy Islamic month of Ramzan from August 22.

"We ordered ban on sale of meat for nine days with effect from Monday simply because there was a Supreme Court order, which we all felt was binding on the entire country," asserted UP animal husbandry minister Awadh Pal Singh Yadav.

"However, when we found today that the order was specific to Gujarat and Rajasthan, we decided to withdraw the order," he added.

While Yadav declined to clarify whether he had taken CM Mayawati's nod before telling his officials to enforce the order, sources claimed that any such policy decision could not have been taken without an express okay from the chief minister.

With word coming from the top, cops down the line went about enforcing the order, which became most visible in the state capital Lucknow, where cops ensured closure of slaughter houses and meat shops from Monday night itself, following which all non-vegetarian food joints remained shut on Tuesday.

None in the state administration were able to explain why the UP government had suddenly woken up to enforce a court order 17 months after it was issued, and that too, without caring to see whether it was at all applicable to UP.

The Supreme Court order came on March 14, 2008, against a Gujarat High Court order, staying a ban on sale of meat ordered by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation.

Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation had acted on a plea made by Hinsa Virodhak Sangh, an NGO propagating ban on animal slaughter and sale of meat during 'Paryushan Parva,' a popular Jain festival.

Officials down the line did not even care to check the date of the Jain festival, which actually commences from August 21 -- coinciding with the beginning of the Islamic fasting month of Ramzan.

"There was no way that we could accept such an order,' said Maulana Khalid Rasheed, Lucknow's Naib Imam and head of the citys oldest Islamic seminary, Fiorangi Mahal.

"After all, this would not only affect the livelihood of those involved in the business of selling meat and non-vegetarian food, but also affect the lives of all Muslims during the forthcoming month of Ramzan," he added.

"Thankfully, the government realized its mistake, which could have cost everyone dear by provoking unnecessary communal tension," he added.

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Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow