A controversy has erupted in the western Indian state of Gujarat after four civic bodies ordered a ban on the sale of non-vegetarian foods on streets as it hurts the religious sentiments of the majority Hindu community.
Opposition political parties and organizations have criticized the order as it may affect the livelihood of poor people and is against the people’s right to eat the food of their choice.
On Tuesday, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation removed stalls selling non-vegetarian food from the main roads of the city.
Earlier, Vadodara, Rajkot, and Bhavnagar civic bodies had ordered shopkeepers to cover non-vegetarian food or face action by the authorities. The order also said that smoke emerging from such places also causes health hazards.
Meanwhile, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has distanced itself from the decision.
State Party President CR Patil said: “The decision was made by local civic bodies and the party has not made any such decision.”
Gujarat is the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and is being ruled by the BJP since 1995. The state will go to the polls next year.
Meanwhile, Hakimuddin Qasmi, General Secretary of Jamiat Ulama-i- Hind, India's largest socio-religious Muslim organization, told Anadolu Agency that the state president of the BJP has said that no such decision was made to ban non-vegetarian food.
“Indian constitution gives us the right to eat the food of our choice,” he said and added so no one can stop anybody from eating food of their choice.
Earlier in 2014, Palitana, a pilgrim city and one of the holiest sites for adherents of the ancient Jain religion, declared the city a "vegetarian-only" zone, completely banning the sale of meat or eggs and the slaughter of animals within the municipality's limits.
An office-bearer of the opposition Congress party, who requested anonymity, said the decision was made to polarize people ahead of elections next year.
“It’s an individual’s choice what to eat and what not to eat. You cannot impose anything on them,” he told Anadolu Agency.