|Tunday Kababi owner Haji Raees Ahmad and manager Abu Bakr|
Piyush Srivastava. TT, Lucknow, March 23: Many would find a Lucknow without Tunday's kebab or Raheem's nihari as unimaginable as a Calcutta without rosogollas or a New York bereft of hotdogs. Not so Yogi Adityanath.
The 150-year-old Tunday Kababi restaurant didn't open yesterday because there was no supply of buffalo meat. It reopened today to sell mutton (goat meat) and chicken kebabs for the first time in its long history.
Raheem Hotel, of 125-year vintage, did open yesterday but only as a courtesy - it wanted to tell its regulars firsthand that it had nothing to sell. Today, it too confined itself to mutton nihari, a dish that usually forms a minor part of its fare.
As soon as Adityanath's nomination for chief minister had been announced on Saturday, officials across the state began raiding and shutting down all the legal and illegal buffalo slaughterhouses because the BJP poll manifesto had promised a ban on these.
All the 130 licensed and 1,100 unlicensed abattoirs in the state had been closed by the weekend, owners said, although Adityanath last evening ordered a publicised crackdown on illegal buffalo slaughterhouses and strict monitoring of the legal ones.
While buffalo meat - some people refer to it as "beef" although the slaughter of cows (or oxen and bulls under 15) is banned in the state - has vanished across Uttar Pradesh, the highest-profile casualties seem to be Tunday and Raheem.
These two restaurants in Phulwali Gali near Old Lucknow's Akbari Gate have been landmarks of Awadhi cuisine for over a century.
"I'm not sure about continuing because 80 per cent of my customers demand bada kebab (indicating buffalo kebab)," Haji Raees Ahmad, the septuagenarian owner of Tunday Kababi, told The Telegraph.
"I have no problem closing the restaurant because I can survive without it. But I'm worried about the future of the 20-odd employees who have been working at the eatery for over two decades."
Raees said that while he used to sell eight pieces of buffalo kebab for Rs 20, he could not afford to sell mutton and chicken kebabs below Rs 60 and Rs 40 for four pieces, respectively.
"Buffalo kebab was virtually staple food for Lucknow's poor. But the footfall at my eatery has already fallen 80 per cent, a good enough reason to shut it down permanently," he said.
Mohammad Shahnawaz, manager of Raheem Hotel, said: "Only a few customers demand mutton nihari, which is expensive. We have lost 80 per cent of our customers."
The nihari is a soup made of bone marrow and meat pieces cooked for hours over a slow fire and served with nans. Tunday kebabs are generally eaten with rumali rotis.
Raees said the more-than-a-dozen other Tunday Kababi outlets in the city, run by franchisees or members of his extended family, would survive because they sell only mutton kebabs.
"But ours is the first Tunday Kababi (which many customers refer to as the ' asli' or real Tunday Kababi), and we used to sell only buffalo kebab till the latest change of government," he said.
Section 4(3) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Slaughterhouse) Rules 2001, in force in the state, says a vet should examine an animal before and after slaughter and issue fitness certificates (attesting it's not a cow), the owner of a licensed mechanised abattoir told this newspaper.
Abattoirs and meat processing units are also supposed to follow effluent-discharge norms and have functioning treatment plants.
"Most of the legal slaughterhouses have been following the specifications but we still had to bribe the officials. The same officials are now forcing us to shut our units despite them being run legally," the abattoir owner said, requesting anonymity.
"On Saturday, they forced all the 130 legal slaughterhouses in the state to close even though there's no such order even today."
A government statement yesterday said the chief minister had asked district magistrates to record the "number of available and slain buffalo in each legal mechanised abattoir" and ensure "the slaughterhouses are not located near public or religious places".
"Can you imagine Bismillah Khan without the shehnai? Then how can you imagine Lucknow without Tunday's kebab and Raheem's nihari?" asked Abu Bakr, the Tunday Kababi manager.