|A closed meat shop in Allahabad on Tuesday|
Piyush Srivastava, TT, Lucknow, March 30: Slaughterhouse owners and sellers of goat and buffalo meat met chief minister Yogi Adityanath today but came away with little to suggest that the harassment they have been facing since the change of guard would end anytime soon.
Uttar Pradesh health minister Siddharth Nath Singh, who was present at the 35-minute meeting, offered nothing concrete.
The meeting was held in a "cordial atmosphere", he said, as both - Adityanath and the delegation from the All India Jamatul Quraish - were unanimous on preventing any illegal business in the state.
"The CM said he was only following the orders of the National Green Tribunal," Singh added, claiming there was no problem with slaughterhouses and meat sellers who had licences issued by municipal authorities.
The NGT had earlier directed closure of illegal slaughterhouses and to ensure that those that were legal did not pollute the environment.
A member of the delegation - that included exporters from Delhi and Mumbai too - told this newspaper they were not able to share their problems with the chief minister.
"It was the CM who was speaking all the time.... We only wanted to say that while the government can take action against illegal slaughterhouses and illegal meat sellers, the CM should expedite the renewal of those licences which had expired last year," said a Lucknow meat seller who didn't want to be named.
"We also wanted to tell the CM that the police, the municipal authorities and the pollution control board were terrorising us and forcing us to close shops and small goat slaughterhouses without any reason. We have handed a memorandum to him," he added.
He also claimed that over 600 goat and buffalo slaughterhouses that were over a decade old had not been able to renew their licences last year, when the Samajwadi Party was in power.
Mohammad Yusuf Qureshi, state president of the Jamatul Quraish, a body of meat traders, said: "We have requested the CM to issue clear guidelines. While the Yogi government has asked officers to take action against illegal slaughterhouses and illegal meat sellers, they have been terrorising whoever found involved in this business."
Adityanath had last week declared that legal buffalo slaughterhouses that follow all the norms would not be closed. But meat trade leaders and abattoir owners have alleged that police began shutting legal and illegal buffalo slaughterhouses as soon as Adityanath was nominated for chief minister on March 18.
The BJP poll manifesto had promised a blanket ban on all buffalo slaughterhouses (cow slaughter is already banned in the state).
Today's meeting came at a time 80 per cent of meat sellers in Lucknow, including those who sell mutton and chicken, kept their shutters down for the third consecutive day against the "highhandedness of officials".
Across Uttar Pradesh, over 60 per cent meat and chicken outlets remained closed in protest. "Government officers are forcing us to close even legal goat and chicken meat outlets," said Mohammad Iqbal Qureshi, president of the Meat and Chicken Traders Welfare Committee in Lucknow.
Over 80 per cent restaurants in old Lucknow that serve mutton and chicken dishes remained closed today. More than 50 per cent restaurants in Hazratganj and other central markets in the state capital didn't open.
A media release from the state information department confirmed today's meeting. "The CM said that it is a government for all. Injustice must not be done to anybody in the name of caste or religion.... The members of the delegation thanked the CM and said that all illegal slaughterhouses should close. The delegation said the CM has assured them that there wouldn't be any discrimination with anybody," the release said.
The statement came on a day Mohammad Nazaqat, a retail mutton seller in Lucknow, started selling tea. "I had a licensed meat shop. But the police and municipal officers forced me to close it without giving any reason," Nazaqat said. "There are thousands of people like me who have been forced to change their business."
Pakistan today cited Yogi Adityanath's elevation as chief minister to accuse India of a "deplorable" track record in its treatment of minorities. "The international community needs to take notice of extremely vitriolic statements by those in power in India, like CM Yogi Adityanath," Nafees Zakaria, the Pakistan foreign ministry spokesperson, said.