Gurugram ‘Shiv Sena’ at it again, forces meat shops and street joints to shut for Navaratras
Abhimanyu Mathur| TNN |
In simpler times, Navaratra in Gurgaon marked the arrival of ramlilas across the city, setting up of Durga Puja pandals, and invites for dandiya nights being sent out. Of late, however, the Navaratra also bring along a forced meat ban in several areas of the city, enforced by a self-proclaimed local unit of the Shiv Sena. Like in March, the party has again ‘requested’ all shops, restaurants, and eateries selling and serving non-vegetarian food in Gurgaon to shut their operations for these nine days as it “hurts the sensibilities of fasting Hindus.” In March, the group’s members had entered a KFC outlet in Sector 14 and forcibly shut it down, apart from around 500 meat shops and family restaurants across town, even though the Gurgaon Police had said that they would immediately take action against any coercive shutting down. The KFC outlet had reopened after a few hours, and fast food chains continued to operate as usual, but smaller shops and street food joints weren’t so lucky. Naturally, such eateries in Gurgaon have taken the threat seriously this time. Most say, they are either shutting down for the Navaratra or pulling non-veg off their menus for this duration.
Selling or serving non-veg during navaratra hurts sensibilities of fasting Hindus: Shiv Sena
Traditionally targeting meat shops in the city, the unit has only recently started including eateries in their ‘meat ban’. Ritu Raj, who claims to be Shiv Sena’s Gurgaon spokesperson, says, “Even though our main objection is against the meat shops that sell meat and display it in the open, we have also asked restaurants and eateries that serve non-veg out in the open or display it to either shut their shops or limit their activities during the Navaratra. Selling or serving non-veg during these nine days hurts the sensibilities of fasting Hindus, which is why we would insist all shops adhere to our request. This includes all kiosks and street food joints too, as they openly serve non-veg.” He added that starting Thursday, about 200 Shiv Sainiks would be ‘patrolling’ the streets and markets of the city to impose their diktat. “If not, we will do the needful ourselves,” says Ritu Raj, the threat hardly veiled.
We have no choice, don’t want any trouble: Eateries
The promise of these ‘raids’ has already put fear in the hearts of food joints across Gurgaon. Shamim, who operates a kebab and rolls joint in Old Gurgaon, says, “I plan to shut shop for the Navaratra. Sales are anyway low during these days. On top of that, I don’t want any trouble with these guys. Even last time, they had objected to me selling rolls and kebabs. I think it’s best that I avoid any such situation this time.” Others say they will continue opening their joints but with an only-veg menu for the Navaratra. An owner of a shawarma joint in Sector 14, says, “I have got a sign prepared that we don’t serve meat during Navaratra to display outside the shop. It will mean some losses but it is the safest thing to do right now.” Another joint owner from Sector 56, adds, “Earlier, I used to shut shop on Tuesdays and the first and last day of the Navaratra, as the sale is anyway low during those days. But this time, given the atmosphere, I will close it for all nine days. Aisi controversy rehti hai toh log bhi nahin aate.”
Owners of street food joints say that the main reason to switch to a vegetarian-only menu is to avoid trouble with the Shiv Sainiks as that adversely affects business. Gagan Singh, who runs a street food joint selling rolls, shawarma and other snacks, says, “I hope the police act before these guys hurt anyone. It is quite scary that you can be attacked just for doing your job. The sales dip during the Navaratra anyway, but some people do come to eat non-veg despite the fasts. If we eliminate our non-veg menu, we will incur losses. But as of now, I have decided to limit my menu to only egg, paneer, and vegetarian dishes. Any argument or incident here will drive customers away. I don’t want that.”
If they threaten us, we will have to give in to their demands: Fast food joints
Fast food joints too, are being cautious. An employee of the KFC outlet in Sector 14 says, “We are being cautious this time. Although we have faith that the administration and police won’t let a repeat of last time happen, if it comes to that, we will agree to whatever their demands are. In any case, their objection is about displaying non-veg in the open, which we don’t do. If it comes to that, we won’t put any signs or display boards outside as well.”
“We have served notices to every meat and chicken shop. This time we have not served notices to restaurants such as KFC and others, which serve chicken, as it is not seen openly. One will have to face consequences in case he does not follow instructions,” general secretary and spokesperson of Shiv Sena Gurgaon wing Ritu Raj said.
Not just the meat shops, Shiv Sena workers also served notices to non-vegetarian food outlets, asking them to shut business till the nine-day Navratri festival is over.
Another right wing group Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Kranti Dal (ABHKD) have also threatened meat sellers not to operate for the nine days.
“We had to close two of our meat shops in Wazirabad and in DLF-5. We did so out of fear because these people can even use violence to get their way,” said Tasim, who sells chicken and biryani.
Another meat shop owner in Old Gurgaon said, “We respect religious sentiments but this is our livelihood. We are being asked to not earn our bread for 10 days. There has to be some other way.”
Meanwhile, the police and Gurgaon administration said they will ensure all security to meat shops.
“We are looking into the matter and no one is authorised to take law into his own hands. If the shops were forcefully shut down by the workers of Shiv Sena, we will take strict against them and are waiting for the complaint to be registered in this regard,” a senior police officer said.