Protestors who claimed to be from Shiv Sena shut more than 300 meat shops, including an outlet of popular fast food chain KFC, in Gurgaon’s popular Sector 14 on Wednesday morning for Navratri, the nine-day Hindu festival where devotees eat vegetarian food.
The protestors also want all meat shops in the area closed every Tuesday, when they say Hindus are barred from eating meat.
Shiv Sena, however, distanced itself from the incident following news reports that Sena activists forcibly closed mutton shops in Gurgaon. “There’s no spokesperson by this name (Ritu Raj) in Shiv Sena. We didn’t carry out any such drive in Gurugram,” said Harshal Pradhan, media advisor to Shiv Sena Chief Uddhav Thackeray.
The self-proclaimed Shiv Sena men targeted shops in Gurgaon’s busy Sadar Bazar area on the right side of Delhi-Gurgaon expressway on Tuesday. On Wednesday morning, they turned to the shops on the other side, including DLF, Sushant Lok, Sohna Road and Badshahpur areas.
“A number of Hindus keep fast on Navratri and on Tuesday of every week. It does not feel good to see meat being sold and served on these days. Most of shopkeepers have supported the move and we consulted those who resisted,” said Ritu Raj, who claimed to be the district spokesperson of Shiv Sena.
Raj claimed most of the shops forced to down shutters were “illegal” as they did not have the licence to operate. “Most of them do not follow proper procedures laid down for meat shops,” he said, adding that the shops were sent prior notices.
A Gurgaon police spokesperson said no complaint was received so far but action would be taken if shops were being forced shut in violation of norms.
Meanwhile, a KFC spokesperson said, “As a responsible corporate citizen, KFC operates in compliance with the laws of the land. We have not received any notification from the authorities on limiting operations during the Navratras or Tuesdays. We would like to reiterate that KFC has the highest respect for the cultural and religious beliefs of all communities and believe that consumers are free to make choices and decisions.”
The incident comes amid a meat strike in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh as shopkeepers in India’s largest meat-producing state say they are being harassed by state officials. The strike comes on the back of a state government drive to seal illegal slaughterhouses in the state – a move that is being seen as targeting the Muslim community who form an overwhelming majority of the butcher community. Many meat shops have been set on fire in UP over the past week.
In Gurgaon, however, some meat shop owners say they don’t have a problem with the demands. Shakir, a meat shop owner in Sector 9, said though the action was against norms, he did not have any objection to keeping his shop closed to respect religious sentiments.
But other shopkeepers are considering approaching police against forced closures. “We are discussing with other shopkeepers and may make a police complaint,” said a shopkeeper on Pataudi Road.