I don’t eat beef, media put words in mouth: Rijiju

Union minister of state for home affairs Kiren Rijiju.

Guwahati: A day after reports quoted Union minister of state for home affairs Kiren Rijiju saying that he eats beef, the Arunachal politician on Wednesday said India was governed by a Constitution that gave everyone the freedom to practice his or her faith and food habits and no restrictions should be put on food habits, such as eating beef.

“Mizoram is a Christian-dominated state and beef forms a part of Mizo food. Why should anyone impose a ban there? We should respect the Mizo sentiment. This is what I said in Aizawl on Tuesday evening when some NGO activists and reporters asked me if they must go to Pakistan to consume beef,” he said.

He said sentiments of Christian and Muslim-majority states should be respected, as should those of Hindu-majority states like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh. While Hindu-majority states can enact legislation against the slaughter of cows, it should not be imposed on states like those in the northeast where many eat beef, he said.

But he clarified that beef had never been on the table for him and his family. “I was misquoted by the media in Aizawl. I never said I eat beef. It’s completely wrong. My family does not eat beef either,” Rijiju, a Buddhist MP from West Kameng district, told TOI.

Rijiju stirred the broth and ruffled saffron feathers when some dailies quoted him as saying, “No one can impose food habits.” It came in the backdrop of remarks by his ministerial colleague Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi that those who want to eat beef should go to Pakistan.

Rijiju was quoted as saying on Tuesday evening that Naqvi’s statement on cow slaughter as “not palatable”. He, however, said his colleague has the right to free speech.

The beef ban in Maharashtra and Haryana has triggered fears that it could go off the plates in the northeast, where it is a cheap and important source of protein for a sizeable chunk of the population. Last month, protesters in Meghalaya had eaten beef in public during BJP president Amit Shah’s visit to Shillong.

“The point is not about what kind of meat to eat. It’s about violation of people’s fundamental right to survival. In a vast and diverse country like ours, the state cannot interfere with people’s food habits,” said A Passah, who took part in the public consumption of beef during Shah’s visit.

Similar sentiments were echoed by Naga writer and political activist Sebastian Zumvu said, “The BJP wants to police our eating habits. What about the ill-treated cows that we see everywhere? Let each and every citizen have the right to eat what they want.”

Meanwhile, BJP chief Amit Shah, in Surat on Wednesday, refused to be drawn into the controversy. “As far as the question of ban on cow slaughter is concerned, wherever BJP is in power, we have put a ban. On Naqviji, I don’t want to make any comments on his statement as those were his personal views,” Shah said.

Source : TOI