A recent order by the civic officials in India's capital New Delhi, ordering the closing down of meat shops in the city during the Hindu festival of Navratri, has sparked outrage in the country.

Opposition politicians, activists, and social media users have all slammed the move stating that the order goes against India's pluralism. New Delhi is ruled by the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party, while the local civic bodies are governed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

On Monday, Mayor Mukkesh Suryaan asked the commissioner of the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) to shut down meat shops from April 2 to 11, according to a report in The Independent.

"The sentiments of Hindus are affected when they come across meat shops or when they have to bear with the foul smell on their way to offer prayers," the district mayor wrote in his letter to the commissioner.

"In these days, people forgo even use of onions and garlic in their diet and the sight of meat being sold in open or near temples make them uncomfortable," he added.

The letter caused much confusion since the authorities have denied issuing any official order with regard to the meat ban.

Some of the meat shop owners did keep their shops closed on Monday, but resumed business on Wednesday.

The order has attracted widespread criticism from several quarters. The opposition parties have alleged that the BJP is trying to polarise the atmosphere ahead of local body elections in the national capital.

"The Constitution allows me to eat meat when I like and the shopkeeper the freedom to run his trade. Full stop." said West Bengal's Trinamool Congress leader Mahua Moitra.

Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah slammed BJP for the move and wrote: "During Ramzan we don't eat between sunrise & sunset. I suppose it's OK if we ban every non-Muslim resident or tourist from eating in public, especially in the Muslim-dominated areas."

I'm a Hindu & eat non-veg almost daily. Didn't know what Navratri is before I came to Delhi. Ban on meat shops during Navratri is ridiculous in a democracy, where 70 per cent are non-veg. Even in Delhi. I'm no less Hindu for consuming non veg during Navratri. pic.twitter.com/zXF2QmBDk4

— Kaushik Deka (@KDscribe) April 5, 2022

#Thread | After calls for shutting South Delhi meat shops during #Navratri by SDMC mayor Mukesh Suryaan got many to remain shut on Tuesday fearing action by authorities, business resumed on Wednesday amid anxiety & fear. Chats with a few vendors
Byte:Krishan Kumar, INA @TheQuint pic.twitter.com/UiUBPguk2i

— Eshwar (@hey_eshwar) April 6, 2022

Congress leader Salman Nizami also took to Twitter to speak out against the ban and said: "They have problem with meat shops in South Delhi, but promise quality beef in North East and Goa. Hypocrisy thy name is BJP!"

Out of 6 largest meat exporters in India, 3 are Hindu owners. India's largest beef exporter Arabian export's owner is Sunil Kapoor. If you want to ban, first ban the exporters. Why poor shopkeepers? Extend the ban across North East & Goa. People consume meat & beef freely there! pic.twitter.com/wQakfUZYxR

— Salman Nizami (@SalmanNizami_) April 6, 2022

One Twitter user wrote: "Meat will continue to be served in hotels. Online vendors will continue to deliver meat. But the Hindu sentiment will be hurt by the meat shops run by poor Muslim vendors."

Contrary to popular belief, research by US-based anthropologist Balmurli Natrajan and India-based economist Suraj Jacob, had revealed that only 20 per cent of Indians are vegetarian. Only 30 percent of Delhi residents are actually vegetarian.

Meat Substitute
Representational Image. AFP / Drew Angerer