Preserve Bengaluru's cosmopolitan culture

If you think Bengaluru is losing its heritage structures and history, get prepared for worse.

The city is in danger of losing its unique cosmopolitan culture with the emerging trend of a section of house owners barring tenants who are meat-eaters (“Veggies only: A harsh reality of the realty world”, Deccan Herald, December 1, 2014).

While such a norm has been in vogue in other cities like Ahmedabad, Jaipur and Mumbai, Bengaluru always had the reputation of being inclusive, cosmopolitan and liberal in its outlook.  Banning non-vegetarian tenants strikes at the heart of this culture and points to a dismal future for the city and its residents if the trend continues and gets entrenched.

The mindset of exclusion can be linked to the larger context where the democratic space is being continuously eroded and sections of the populace have taken it upon themselves to feel offended and demand the banning of films, books and cultural practices which, according to them, are offensive. 

The withdrawal of Wendy Doniger’s seminal book on Hinduism was among the latest casualties engineered by the moral police. Politically, the rise of the right-wing and the increasing dominance of its torchbearer, the RSS, seem to be accentuating the fault lines in Indian society.

This has, in turn, led to inter-communal tensions and polarisation among communities. While this may not be directly linked to banning of meat-eating tenants, the climate appears to be conducive for the spread of such tendencies.

For, placing restrictions on tenants implies a form of social exclusion. Several communities among the Hindus as well as Muslims who eat meat will never be able to exercise their choice in where they want to live.

Excuses such as “non-vegetarians are alcoholics” and “foul smell emanates from non-vegetarian houses” can be construed as a facade for a hidden agenda of social discrimination.  Ironically, this at a time when the prime ministership of Narendra Modi was expected to act as a unifying force.

While one reason why Bengaluru has transformed into a thriving city is undoubtedly its great weather through the year, another equally important attribute that set the stage for the city to emerge as a megalopolis has been its culture of tolerance and assimilation where the individual alone mattered and not their community or nativity.

In short, the culture of the city made it clear that everyone was welcome. By imposing conditions on what people should eat in their private space, and denying them accommodation for that very reason, the city stands to lose a quality that has made it endearing to one and all.

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