‘What is this Hindu, Muslim? Who says ban will hit only few’

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The District Magistrate’s Office has officers shuffling out and in with swiftly drawn maps, the outlines hazy. “We are trying to figure out which areas, markets and shops will be covered under the ambit of the notification. Ek hafte mein picture clear hone ki sambhavna hai (There should be some clarity in a week),” says Additional District Magistrate (Finance and Revenue) Yoganand Pandey.

It’s a day after the Uttar Pradesh authorities notified 22 out of 70 municipal wards in Mathura-Vrindavan as “pavitra teerth sthal (holy pilgrimage sites)”, successfully banning the sale of non-vegetarian meals and liquor right here.

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The chatter inside town, at mohallas inhabited largely by Muslims and Dalits, additionally displays the confusion and uncertainty, with residents making an attempt to find themselves on the municipal map in Mathura’s dense sprawl of interlocking by-lanes, housing over four lakh folks.

“Today everyone is trying to find out their (municipal) ward number. It didn’t really matter before,” says Naushad Alam, who owns a poultry store within the Muslim-dominated Bharatpur ward.

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Some traces although are already firmly drawn. “A large contingent of policemen arrived last evening itself and ordered that the market be shut and the signboards be taken down. We had no option…”, says Alam.

On Saturday, the meat merchants held a gathering to debate the federal government notification. Shakir Hussain, the proprietor of Majeed restaurant in Bharatpur who was a part of the assembly, says, “The order violates Articles 19 and 21 (freedom of expression, life and personal liberty) of the Constitution. The UP government had tried to enforce a ban on meat even in 2017 under the guise of cracking down on slaughterhouses. But the Allahabad High Court had reminded it that it shouldn’t try doing anything that would violate fundamental rights.”

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Bharatpur’s fish and poultry market, catering to locals in addition to a number of massive and small accommodations, is normally a bustling place, drawing clients from locations resembling Lakshminagar near the Yamuna Expressway, falling exterior the Mathura municipal limits.

SDM Ajay Kumar Singh says round 15 of the 38 licensed meat retailers in Mathura are positioned within the Bharatpur space.

Among those that fear the fallout of the federal government notification is Raj Kumar, the proprietor of ‘Delhi Chicken Shop’ in Lakshminagar, who sources his provides from Bharatpur, in addition to Khatik Mohalla, a Dalit-dominated colony in Mathura’s Dampier Nagar.

“Kya hai ye Hindu-Muslim, Hindu-Muslim (What is this Hindu-Muslim)? I started this shop with my business partner Shah Rukh. I source my chicken from a Muslim-run market. My shop has Hindu workers. They say the ban will only affect a small number of people. That is simply not true, such is the way these businesses are linked,” Kumar says.

One of the staff at Bharatpur’s Majeed restaurant, Yogendra Kumar, 21, who hails from neighbouring Fatehpur Sikri, says, “I cleared ITI, specializing in electronics repairing. After that I worked with a manufacturing unit at Palwal (Haryana), which didn’t pay much. Around seven months ago, I moved here and earn Rs 12,000 per month. I have elderly parents and young sisters to take care of. Where do I go now?”

The ripples will unfold to different companies which could have escaped authorities calculation, says Deepak Aggarwal, who provides flour to accommodations. “Over half my revenue comes from hotels serving non-veg food,” he says.

While Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has stated a plan will probably be drawn as much as rehabilitate the affected merchants, district officers admit it’s not even on the desk up to now.

As for the CM’s suggestion that the merchants shift to sale of milk, the latter scoff at its “impracticality”. “This makes no sense. These businesses took shape over generations. Milk cannot ever match up to that. Moreover, where is the demand going to come from? This is targeted towards one community,” says Hussain, the proprietor of Majeed.

He additionally factors out, “The slaughterhouse at Manoharpura was shut down in 1998 with the promise of alternative jobs for butchers. That never happened.”

A meat dealer on the Khatik Mohalla, who needs to be recognized solely by his surname Sonkar and calls himself a non-believer who follows the teachings of Babasaheb Ambedkar, says Dalits like him may also be hit, whereas questioning the logic of the move.

“The price of chicken would not have become Rs 200 per kilo had only Dalits been the consumers. Thakurs, Baniyas, Brahmins, sab aate hain (they all come). And moreover, they are disregarding science in the name of faith. Why are references on meat being a good source of nutrition not dropped from textbooks then?” he says.

According to different merchants too, at each Bharatpur and Khatik Mohalla, their clients are overwhelmingly Hindus. As per the 2011 Census, Hindus make up round 81% of the inhabitants of Mathura metropolis, whereas Muslims are at 17%.

Many merchants additionally query the rationale of the mapping train. “It is almost as if faith ceases to exist after a 2.5 km radius around the temple complex. They did not even let us empty our stocks,” says a dealer.

In Uttar Pradesh, ban orders like Mathura’s are in drive from earlier in elements of Ayodhya, Chitrakoot, Deoband, Dewa Sharif, Misrikh-Naimisharanya, and the realm across the Kashi Vishwanath temple in Varanasi. In Uttarakhand, the ban is efficient in all the Haridwar district.

ADM Pandey and SDM Singh admit they’re making an attempt to determine how a lot space will come beneath the ambit of the notification in Mathura-Vrindavan. “The civic body has been directed to chart the mohallas that come under the 22 selected wards. The exercise will take some time as there are mohallas with some parts under the demarcated wards, some outside,” Pandey says.

Unlike the meat retailers, the liquor retailers within the recognized wards have been open as of Saturday. Excise officer Prabhat Chandra stated round 45-50 of the 658 liquor retailers in Mathura will shut within the subsequent few days. The district’s earnings from excise obligation and license charges was over Rs 400 crore within the final monetary yr.

Among those that helps the BJP authorities’s move is Anjani Kumar, an worker at one of many liquor retailers. “Faith should not be subjected to unnecessary arguments,” Kumar says. “It’s not as if a blanket ban has been imposed on meat trade. It impacts a very small area. Yogi baba (the CM) ne sahi nirnay liya (has taken the right decision).”

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