Many former leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are all set to organise a beef festival in Tura in Meghalaya on Saturday evening to protest against the central government's decision ban trade of cattle for slaughter across India. The former leaders had quit the saffron party alleging that its leadership was trying to impose the Hindutva ideology on them.
Around 2,000 people are expected to attend the beef festival, which will include serving of beef dishes, bitchi (rice beer) and alcohol, the consumption of which is rejected by those following the Hindutva ideology under which the cow is considered a sacred animal. The celebration will take place in Tura, the district headquarters of West Garo Hills.
"There will be music, food and festivities. We plan to start around 5.30 pm and continue till late. Some people from neighbouring districts would also come. Nearly 2,000 attendees are expected," Bernard N Marak, BJP's district president in West Garo hills, was quoted as saying by the Hindustan Times.
Most of the population in Meghalaya follows Christianity, a religion which allows the consumption of beef. Several leaders and almost 5,000 members of the BJP from Meghalaya's Garo hills quit the party after the Centre banned cattle trade for slaughter in May.
"I quit the BJP as the party was trying to impose Hindutva ideology on us. We feel out of place in the party. Eating beef is part of our tradition and fest is our way of showing how intrinsic cow meat is to our culture," Bernard had said before resigning from the BJP last week.
Bachu Marak, BJP president of the North Garo Hills district in Meghalaya, also resigned from the party earlier this week over the beef ban issue saying: "I cannot compromise on the sentiments of the Garos. As a Garo, it is my responsibility to protect the interest of my community. Beef eating is part of our culture and tradition. Imposition of BJP's non-secular ideology on us is not acceptable."
The developments seem to have come at a bad time with the state going to polls in 2018. The BJP needs to win in the Garo Hills region, which has 24 of the 60 seats in the assembly, to overthrow the Congress government which is presently in power in Meghalaya.
However, the BJP leadership seems to be unaffected by the resignation of their leaders and open defiance of the beef ban. The top leadership has said that those who resigned are opportunists and they did so because their chances of getting a ticket to contest the upcoming assembly elections were slim.
"We welcome the resignations. There's nothing to worry about as this talk of a blanket ban on cow slaughter is all fabricated," state BJP President Shibun Lyngdoh was quoted by the paper as saying. The beef ban led to reports of discontent in Nagaland and Mizoram as well, where most of the population follows Christianity and also consumes beef.