By Snobar Khan | Asifa Khan
In the midst of Ramadan, a video of alleged cow vigilantes and Ashok Chhabra, the state government of Haryana’s media coordinator, and a BJP worker closing down meat dealers’ stores in Krishnapur, which is located in Panipat, Haryana, has gone viral on social media.
Location: Krishnapura, Panipat, Haryana
Members of a cow vigilante group and BJP councilor Ashok Chhabra forced meat shops to close for Navratri. pic.twitter.com/PReefoMtJO
— HindutvaWatch (@HindutvaWatchIn) March 27, 2023
In the video, cow vigilantes and Chhabra can be seen threatening owners to close meat shops and Muslim restaurants in the name of Navratri.
In a video, a person can be seen closing down a chicken meat store owned by Gafoori Khan. Khan wasn’t present when they were doing so.
They also shut down a Muslim hotel, stating it was mandatory to shut this one down because they cook wrong things inside( Yeh hotel to zaroori hai bandh karwana zaroori hai; yeh toh ulti seedhi cheezein banate hai). In addition, they were seen threatening the restaurant cook, saying that it was necessary for all meat shops to be closed on every Tuesday as well.
In a clip, Chhabra said that the buffalo meat will not be sold here (Bade wala toh nai bikega bhai). Meanwhile, another member said we should put a complete ban on buffalo meat here.
Without any official notice, Muslim shopkeepers were forced to close their meat shops. In the end of the video, after closing the meat shops, one of the members shows the complaint letter for closing the meat shops, stating that it will be submitted to the police station.
The letter was written in Hindi and stated that it is a request that meat shops be shut down because it hurts the faith of Hinduism. Shops should be closed in particular on Tuesdays and during the Navratri season in Krishanpura.
The Panipat police was not responding to the calls made.
Similar incidents recorded in past years
This is not the first time that Bajrang Dal members have shut down meat shops in BJP-ruled states like Haryana; these incidents have been happening ever since the BJP came into power.
The Wire reported on a similar incident in 2021 where Bajrang Dal members closed down meat shops forcibly in Faridabad, Haryana.
A video of Bajrang Dal members breaking into the shops of meat vendors in Faridabad, Haryana, went viral on social media. The video was recorded in Faridabad by Bajrang Dal member Jeet Vashisth. Jeet can be seen in the video threatening to shut down meat markets and claiming to be authorized by the Commissioner to do so.
Meat shopkeepers described to The Wire how challenging it would be for them to survive if their meat markets were closed. They had to deal with many issues, such as how they would make money and pay the rent for their stores.
Last year, in September, Hindustan Times reported that the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram (MCG) issued an order directing meat shop owners to close their establishments for nine days, from September 26, 2022, to October 5, 2022, in observance of the Hindu festival of Navratri. Moreover, a fine of Rs 5,000 was imposed for opening the shop during the nine days of Navratri.
In addition to this, in 2018, 400 shops of meat sellers were shut in Gurgaon amid Navratri by the members of Shiv Sena. According to the locals, 50% of the shops were closed amid fears of clashes. Approximately 300 members of Hindu organizations were assembled to close meat shops at different places, as reported by the media.
Earlier attempts to outlaw meat shops for Navratri were criticized by the opposition. In 2022, when the South Delhi Municipal Corporation called for the closure of meat shops during Ramadan in the name of Navratri, Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra reminded the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party of the constitutional rights of citizens, saying that the Constitution allows her to eat meat whenever she likes and gives shopkeepers the freedom to run their businesses.
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah also attacked the ruling party, saying that “it would be fine to ban every “non-Muslim resident” from eating in public in the Union Territory during Ramazan as Muslims do not eat between sunrise and sunset then.”
“If majoritarianism is right for South Delhi, it has to be right for J&K,” Abdulla had tweeted.
Ban on allegedly illegal meat shops
According to The Tribune, in 2017, Municipal Corporation (MC) officials closed 26 allegedly illegal meat shops and took out 20 kiosks from various locations throughout Panipat, Haryana. Due to the presence of numerous police officers, some of the shopkeepers tried to protest the move, but they could not succeed.
In 2016, MCD officials conducted raids on meat shops, removing the goods from the shops and discarding them. They forcibly closed the allegedly illegal meat shops in the Jhajjjar area of the state of Haryana and additionally warned the store owners that if they reopened their stores, they would be required to pay an invoice.
Threat to Muslims’ employment
Adil, a resident of Haryana, said due to the closure of Muslim hotels, they suffer a lot and also face a financial crisis. Bajrang Dal members should not close meat hotels. These people arrive to shut the meat markets as soon as a festival has arrived. Why do they carry out this action during Ramadan? He asked.
Sohail, a resident of Rajasthan, said on the challenges facing after closing the meat shops and hotels that Muslim meat consumers would not face many issues but Muslim meat shop owners would since it is their livelihood. It is their job, and that is how they earn and feed their families, and when a business so large is shut down instantly for a month, a lot of Muslims will not be able to earn anything.
Danish, a BA LLB student from Haryana, said that an attempt is being made to end Muslim employment by shutting down meat shops and hotels by the cow vigilantes in Haryana.