Spot the pattern: Madhya Pradesh CM Mohan Yadav latest to wage war on meat and fish

After the Rajasthan assembly poll results last week, winning BJP MLA Balmukund Acharya threatened to shut down all non-veg food stalls run by Muslims in an area of Jaipur

Mohan Yadav begins his term as chief minister of Madhya Pradesh with a puja in the CM's chamber (photo: @DrMohanYadav51/X)
Mohan Yadav begins his term as chief minister of Madhya Pradesh with a puja in the CM's chamber (photo: @DrMohanYadav51/X)

NH Digital

A ban on the hijab in one state. A ban on halal meat and loudspeakers for azaan in another. Now, a ban on selling meat and fish 'in the open'. 

Hours after being sworn in as the new chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, Mohan Yadav, who comes from a strong RSS background, banned the sale of meat and eggs in the open, as part of a series of decisions taken at his first state cabinet meeting.

During a press conference, Yadav said, "Strict adherence to the regulations governing the sale of meat and fish in the open will be ensured after the implementation of food safety rules, in accordance with the guidelines provided by the government of India."

Speaking of food safety, discarded and rotting vegetables give off methane, a potent greenhouse gas 25 times more hazardous than carbon dioxide, according to an article in Science Direct.

In November, a series of orders regulating the sale of non-vegetarian food were issued in Gujarat. The orders prohibit preparation and display of non-vegetarian food in public. Interestingly, Gujarat is not the most vegetarian state in the country.

Indeed, according to the Central government's own National Family Health Survey-5, a staggering 83.4 per cent of men and 70.6 per cent of women in the 15-49 age group eat non-vegetarian food daily, weekly or occasionally in India. 

While his decision may be seen as an indicator of the order of priority for Yadav and his party in the state, in neighbouring Telangana, the new Congress government led by A Revanth Reddy seemed more interested in implementing many of the poll promises made by the party during the election campaign, almost as soon as the swearing-in ceremony ended.

Last week, BJP MLA Balmukund Acharya, who won the Hawa Mahal assembly segment in Jaipur, swung into action after the Rajasthan assembly poll results were announced and ordered the shutting down of several non-vegetarian food stalls run by Muslims in a particular area of Jaipur, claiming the stalls were operating without valid permits.

In response to a video showing him instructing an officer to shut down the eateries, Acharya maintained that it was not a 'threat' but an attempt to address complaints from locals. Sources, however, claimed that his climbdown came after he was reprimanded by the BJP high command.

Acharya also accused the Congress of attempting to 'disturb the peace' and claimed he was not trying to polarise the area, though the video posted by Hindutva Watch on X appeared to show him admonishing Muslim-owned eateries with "trying to turn this place into Karachi".

However, the move against non-vegetarian food is not new in the state, or many other states in India, as a matter of fact. Because this is not the first time that a BJP-ruled state has imposed such orders. In 2021, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath imposed a similar ban on the sale of meat in specific areas of Mathura, adding to existing bans in parts of Hardwar, Rishikesh, Vrindavan, Barsana, Ayodhya, Chitrakoot, Deoband, Dewa Sharif, and Misrikh-Naimisharanya.

The Uttarakhand government later also empowered itself with the authority to declare an area as a "slaughter-free" zone, leading to the closure of slaughter houses in Hardwar district.

The series of recent bans on the slaughter, sale, and display of meat and non-vegetarian food has sparked a debate on their impact on the rights, livelihoods, and choices of a significant section of the population. Legal and constitutional experts are questioning the validity of these executive orders, as they potentially infringe upon the Constitutional rights of citizens, particularly the right to practice any profession or trade as guaranteed by Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution.

Citing the landmark case of Chintaman Rao vs State of Madhya Pradesh (1950), legal scholars emphasise that every prohibitory order must withstand the scrutiny of reasonableness and proportionality, in accordance with Article 19(6) of the Constitution.

This ruling underscores the Supreme Court's role in safeguarding fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution, providing a basis for evaluating the legality and constitutionality of such prohibitory executive orders. The ongoing debate raises critical questions about the delicate balance between individual freedoms and the state's authority to impose restrictions in the interest of the general public.

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