Beef? Yes please!

Javed Khan approaches a table at his restaurant and lists out the various dishes available – curry, chaap (ribs), liver, bheja (brains), intestine and keema (minced). With a polite smile, he recommends the brain. Beef brain, that is.

After recent comments by India’s minister of state for home affairs Kiren Rijiju and minority affairs minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on the issue of banning beef, the possible nationwide ban on the slaughter of cows has once again taken centrestage.

While the jury is still out on the interpretation of Rijiju’s statement, most people in his home state are not impressed by the idea of banning beef.

Khan, who has been running Khan Restaurant and Beef Hotel at Naharlagun here, said, “It would be impossible to enforce such a ban in the Northeast”. His restaurant is often frequented by MLAs and ministers of the state and is one of the several Muslim-run restaurants that are referred to simply as beef hotels. “Business is good,” Khan said.

Another Khan – Jakharudin – came to Arunachal soon after it was granted statehood in February 1987. Originally from Sitamarhi district in Bihar, he did odd jobs and operated a small shop until setting up Taj Hotel in Itanagar in 1998. While not exactly reminiscent of the famous monument in Agra, he has shifted its location twice and upgraded to a cleaner area since then.

Jakharudin claims that he is just about able to break even. “The cost of meat at Rs 180 per kilo is too high,” he said.

A young entrepreneur, Tage Laring, felt that the idea of banning the meat “defies logic”. He added: “It is the only meat that can be boiled in water with nothing but salt and still be delicious”.

There is, however, a division of opinion within Rijiju’s own party. Tame Phassang, the party’s national council member of Arunachal West parliamentary constituency, said he does not eat beef and that he “gave it up a long time ago, even before joining the party”. However, another party member, Komjum Riba, admitted that he eats beef and that his “food habits should not be a matter of concern for the party”.

There are others in the state who are wary of the idea of banning beef. Passang D. Sona, the Congress MLA from Mechukha in West Siang district, said the choice (to eat or not to eat beef) should be left to individuals and a ban questions India’s secular credentials. “Being a secular country, every religion’s practices, lifestyle and philosophy must be respected,” he said.

Referring to the ban on cow slaughter in Maharashtra, filmmaker and professor at Rajiv Gandhi University here, Moji Riba, said, “If there is a larger design to implement a nationwide ban, it needs to be looked at critically.”

He said, “The core idea of India is its diversity and these measures are a cruel irony.” Riba also felt that such a ban “denies” him of his “right to be different”.

A senior government official put it more poignantly: “Beef represents something bigger than just meat”.

This story came in the backdrop of the proposal made by the government to ban slaughter of cows and consumption of beef. Link to original story published in The Telegraph in June 2015:

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