Hindu hard­lin­ers force meat sell­ers to close

In­dian ac­tivist, 86, dies while fast­ing for cleaner Ganges

Kuwait Times - - International -

GUR­GAON: In­dian Hindu hard­lin­ers are forc­ing meat sell­ers to shut shops in a New Delhi sub­urb that is home to global out­sourc­ing firms, say­ing they must re­spect the feel­ings of ma­jor­ity Hin­dus cel­e­brat­ing a nine-day fes­ti­val. The drive against the mostly Mus­lim shop­keep­ers in Gur­gaon dur­ing the Navara­tri fes­ti­val is the high­est pro­file cam­paign since Hindu vig­i­lantes tar­geted peo­ple en­gaged in the slaugh­ter of cows, con­sid­ered sa­cred to Hin­dus.

With a na­tional election due by May, some states ruled by Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi’s Hindu na­tion­al­ist govern­ment are draw­ing ac­cu­sa­tions that they are not do­ing enough to curb the ac­tiv­i­ties of Hindu hard­lin­ers. One meat shop­keeper re­ferred to the 1947 di­vi­sion of Bri­tish In­dia into the in­de­pen­dent In­dia and Pak­istan.

“This is the first time since par­ti­tion that we have been asked to close shops for this long a pe­riod,” said Sa­jid Qureshi, whose fam­ily has been sell­ing meat for decades. Men are roam­ing around on mo­tor­bikes and sur­vey­ing ar­eas to check for shops sell­ing meat, said Ra­jeev Mit­tal, head of Sanyukt Hindu San­garsh Samiti, an um­brella or­ga­ni­za­tion of 22 Hindu groups. “Goats, cows are cut and hung up for all to see by the road. So we don’t want peo­ple who are fast­ing dur­ing the Navra­tri to see this,” said Mit­tal, who was wear­ing a red re­li­gious mark on his fore­head and a saf­fron shawl around his neck, told Reuters at his of­fice.

Po­lice de­tained six peo­ple in the re­gion on Wed­nes­day af­ter con­fronta­tion which turned vi­o­lent when Hindu groups al­legedly forced a meat shop owner to close. “Any one found forcibly clos­ing meat shops will be dealt with sternly. The mu­nic­i­pal cor­po­ra­tion will do its en­force­ment on shops found run­ning without a li­cense,” said Vi­nay Pratap Singh, Deputy Com­mis­sioner of Gur­gaon. Qureshi, who was sit­ting with his friends out­side a closed meat shop near a mosque, said they had agreed to the de­mands of the Hindu groups as they wanted to avoid con­fronta­tions.

Four other meat re­tail­ers told Reuters they were suf­fer­ing heavy losses but were scared to keep their shops open, adding that it looked un­likely that they would be al­lowed to re­open for an­other week. Hindu groups ar­gue that they are ask­ing meat shop own­ers with proper li­censes to close only dur­ing the nine-day pe­riod, but want shops without li­censes to be per­ma­nently shut down. There are 95 li­censed meat shops in the re­gion, while there could be up to 60 without li­censes, ac­cord­ing to Ashish Singla, med­i­cal of­fi­cer at Gur­gaon’s mu­nic­i­pal cor­po­ra­tion.

Meat re­tail­ers suf­fer heavy losses

In­dian ac­tivist dies

In an­other de­vel­op­ment, one of In­dia’s most prom­i­nent en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivists has died at the age of 86 af­ter more than 15 weeks of a hunger strike to protest against govern­ment in­ac­tion on clean­ing up the Ganges. The death of GD Agar­wal, who held a PhD in en­vi­ron­men­tal en­gi­neer­ing from the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia in Berke­ley, prompted an out­pour­ing of grief and tributes from ac­tivists. “His demise has shut one of the lead­ing voices of crit­i­cism of the govern­ment on the Ganga pol­lu­tion,” said en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist Rakesh Jaiswal. “He was one of the most im­por­tant fig­ures in this fight.”

The Ganges, wor­shipped by Hin­dus, is In­dia’s largest river sys­tem and one of its most pol­luted. Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi came to power in 2014 with a pledge to clean up the 1,570-mile-long river, used for wa­ter by 400 mil­lion peo­ple, but in­creas­ingly choked with do­mes­tic and in­dus­trial waste. A flag­ship five-year project he launched in 2015 has fallen flat, crit­ics say. Re­sults of a fed­eral au­dit re­leased in Dec. 2017 re­vealed lapses in plan­ning and fi­nan­cial man­age­ment of the scheme and said un­der a quar­ter of the funds for the pro­gramme had been spent in two years. Agar­wal be­gan his fast on June 22 in the north­ern Harid­war city, de­mand­ing a law to pro­tect the river and the scrap­ping of con­struc­tion of hy­dro­elec­tric projects along its banks that have de­stroyed its nat­u­ral flow. In a let­ter to Modi in Au­gust, he threat­ened to fast unto death un­less ac­tion was taken.

— AFP

AM­RIT­SAR: In­dian Hindu devo­tees of­fer prayers for the ‘Navra­tri’ fes­ti­val at the Mata Longa Wali Devi Tem­ple in Am­rit­sar. Navra­tri is cel­e­brated twice a year dur­ing the spring and au­tumn sea­sons and sym­bol­izes the tri­umph of good over evil.

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