New Delhi, India – Authorities in Ahmedabad have ordered the removal of non-vegetarian food stalls from its main roads – the fourth city in the Indian state of Gujarat, in western India, to do so in recent days.
In an order released on Monday, the Ahmedabad municipal corporation said it would remove stalls selling non-vegetarian food items from the city’s main roads as well as within 100 meters (330 feet) of schools, colleges and places of worship.
Devang Dani, chairman of the company’s town planning committee, told ANI news agency that execution of the order will begin on Tuesday.
The restriction came days after municipalities in the towns of Rajkot, Bhavnagar and Junagadh in Gujarat, led by the right-wing Bharatiya Janata (BJP) party, took similar steps.
Gujarat, one of India‘s wealthiest states, is the home state of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who served as its chief minister for almost 13 years before winning the 2014 national elections. .
The city administration of Vadodara and Rajkot even ordered traders and hawkers to cover non-vegetarian foods, including eggs, saying it could “harm the religious feelings of Hindus.”
He also said that the smoke emanating from such places could pose risks to public health.
“The practice of displaying meat, fish and eggs on the stalls may have continued for several years, but it was time to end it,” said the chairman of the standing committee of the Vadodara Municipal Corporation. , Hitendra Patel, according to local media.
The current Chief Minister of Gujarat, Bhupendra Patel, said on Monday that the ban was not “a matter of vegetarian and non-vegetarian food products”.
âPeople are free to eat whatever they want. But the food sold on the stalls should not be harmful and the stalls should not obstruct traffic, âhe told reporters.
BJP spokesperson in Gujarat Yamal Vyas said the decisions were made by the respective municipal offices and not by his party.
âThis is not the decision of the BJP. It is a decision of the municipality concernedâ¦ The party as a whole has taken no position on this issue, âhe told Al Jazeera.
âThe only thing is that all those stalls shouldn’t be a barrier to trafficâ¦ The BJP is not opposed to non-vegetarian food per se. We oppose food that is not very hygienic.
The opposition congressional party said the BJP wanted to “distract people” from major issues, including unemployment and rising prices.
âThe BJP has not kept the promises it made to people, be it jobs or clean water. The main agenda of the BJP is to create polarization by raising such non-issues, âGujarat Congress spokesman Manish Doshi told Al Jazeera.
Doshi said the ban on non-vegetarian food stalls in Gujarat towns was a BJP “election gimmick” to further deepen the religious divide in the state.
âIt should be left to an individual what he wants to eat, drink and wear. It is a personal choice and the government should not be forcing this on people. This [ban on non-vegetarian stall] is a BJP election gimmick, âDoshi said.
“It is very dangerous for our democracy.”
Legislative elections in Gujarat, a state ruled by the BJP for more than 25 consecutive years, are scheduled for next year.
Non-vegetarian restaurants, especially in states ruled by the BJP, face increasing pressure from the party and Hindu supremacist groups affiliated with it.
Shamshad Pathan, a politician belonging to All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) in Gujarat, told Al Jazeera that the decision will hurt the poor and called it a âhidden agendaâ by the BJP for the benefit of multinational corporations.
âThe majority of vendors in Gujarat who sell non-vegetarian food are either Muslims, Dalits or Adivasis. [Indigenous]. It’s to target them and benefit big business, âPathan said.