Lately, the controversial notification on the word ‘beef’ reminded me of the year I spent in central India. At one time, I was strongly rebuked and denigrated by a senior citizen for passing on the money returned by the shopkeeper to him/her for the reason that, I being a beef eater should not touch any of his/her possessions. And then I had the privilege of having a bunch of deeply religious friends who worshipped cattle as god but had the tolerance to sit beside me and dine while I had piece of pickled beef on my plate. Perhaps it’s the mindset of men that creates heaven or hell situation in the society to coexist. How unfortunate it is to realise that a country like India, which aspires to uphold its unity and diversity since independence, is deeply infected by parochialism and intolerance in all its forms even today.
Arunachal Pradesh is a tribal dominated land with its own unique customs and beliefs from the rest of states. Cattle are mostly reared with the motive of sacrifice and consumption as food by the majority, and such practices are ingrained in the culture and traditions of APSTs for aeons. Different and distinctive cuisines are made of beef in all occasions and celebrations. Many tribals actually derive their source of income by marketing and selling beef afresh or cooked at restaurants. In fact, putting out word ‘beef’ is a part of marketing tactics that falls under non-price competition in economic terms; a strategy adopted by the seller to attract customers without reducing the price. Such an act with the sole idea of earning livelihood without intent to harm any community shouldn’t be the cause of hurt to sentiments of those against beef tagline. Tolerance and sympathy for conflicting beliefs of other is all that every human as humane need to foster in order to thrive peacefully together. The authorities instead of banning and shaming the word ‘beef’ on signboards must focus more on promoting food tourism in the state, wherein beef cuisines would contribute a good deal.
In the rising chaos of intolerance against the minorities in the nation as a whole, the inception of every pursuit to dim the pride of tribalism must be thwarted. Today it is about the beef, tomorrow it would be the pork and the following would be the end of harmony in the society.
Anonymous APST citizen