The Yogi Adityanath government’s move to ban the sale of meat and liquor in the newly renamed district of Ayodhya and in Mathura, which is associated with Krishna, is wrong and ill-conceived. The UP government has recently taken a number decisions intended to appeal to the religious and sectarian sentiments of people. It upped the ante on the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya and renamed places like Allahabad and Faizabad and has indicated that more such steps are being planned. The move to ban the sale of meat and liquor in two big districts is one such. There are already restrictions on the sale of meat and liquor in some spots and areas in both towns and even in some other places, which are considered to be holy sites, in the country. The case for such restrictions is weak, and the move to impose bans in large populated areas is wrong.
There is no link between devotion and the kind of food devotees, and others, eat. If a devotee decides on a regimen of food he or she should adopt as part of the faith and its practice, it is a personal decision. Governments should not impose food restrictions on the people of a district or any area, guided by its own ideas of right and wrong religious practices. A person need not be a vegetarian to be a devotee of Ram or Krishna. In a democracy, governments have no right to decide what people should and should not eat. At least half the population in both the districts are non-vegetarian. The government should not try to change their dietary habits and deny them their right to food. Most of them are from weaker sections like Muslims and Dalits. If there is a ban on meat and liquor, vigilantes will get another weapon to harass and persecute some sections, as it has happened in the name of enforcement of beef ban. The ban will also result in loss of livelihood for large numbers of people and, in effect, a denial of the right to work and do business. Tourism will also be affected.
It is authoritarian and dictatorial governments and organisations like the Taliban in Afghanistan that impose such diktats on people. They have no place in a democracy. It has been stated that the government mooted the proposal on the basis of demands made by sadhus and sants and “crores of devotees’’. That is not how decisions should be made in a secular democracy. It is a move that imposes a majoritarian will on the people and is driven more by politics than by any other consideration.