At least 61 per cent of the population of Gujarat, according to government data, eats meat, but the prejudice and humiliation associated with non-vegetarian food refuse to simmer down.
In a fresh set of bizarre claims made by our politicians, Gujarat Revenue Minister Rajendra Trivedi on Friday urged roadside vendors serving meat-based dishes to their customers to refrain from doing so as the smoke that emanates from their food ‘is bad for health’. He, however, later appeared to have realised his folly and said he was being misquoted.
Though no official notification has been issued, there has been a silent drive in Gujarat to ‘have separate streets’ for non-vegetarian food stalls. At least two non-vegetarian food vendors in Vadodara told this to Vibes of India. “There are concentrated efforts to kick us out from where we are working. Most of our clients are Hindus and do not mind eating our food but still, there are some complaining about us”, a fried fish vendor told VoI.
The minister, however, said he has no intention to single out anyone. “What I meant is that there should be space for pedestrians to walk. These vendors who keep roaming around halt at a place and encroach the road.” Emphasising that he was not against any community, Trivedi said that even if someone is making pav bhaji on the road, the smoke burns the eyes. “Similarly, when mutton or eggs are made, the same things happen.”
“Our law says that mutton lorries should not be there in public view. People cannot hang non-vegetarian stuff. They have to keep it inside the shop and also cover it with a cloth.” Trivedi said they have received multiple complaints against such roving hawkers and the rules are both for vegetarian and non-vegetarian food stall owners. “It is people’s right to use and walk on footpaths. That was my only intention,” he explained.
Vibes of India contacted human rights activist Anand Yagnik who said that he was not aware of any such law. “These are the minister’s personal observations. There has always been a conflict of culture between minorities and majorities in Gujarat.”, he said.
A Muslim non-veg vendor in Vadodara told Vibes of India that though there is no formal communication they have been asked to “stay invisible”.
In Rajkot city also, the Municipal Corporation has seized six carts selling non-vegetarian food in the last 48 hours. Rajkot Mayor Pradeep Dav said he had lots of complaints from citizens saying they felt trespassed and ‘impure’ because of these non-veg selling vendors. In Vadodara, Standing Committee Chairman Dr Hitendra Patel echoes similar sentiments but added that he was not against non-veg selling vendors but he wants to ensure that good hygiene is practised by all vegetarians and non-vegetarian vendors. Also, non vegetarian vendors need to practise a little better hygiene, he said.