BJP leaders who quit last week over cattle trade ban to hold beef fest in Meghalaya


Several ex-BJP members were set to organise a beef festival in Meghalaya’s Tura on Saturday evening, protesting a decision by the Union government controlled by their former party to ban trade of cattle for slaughter.

The event, expected to be attended by 2,000 people, will include servings of beef dishes and alcohol, the consumption of which is opposed by people following the Hindutva ideology that is shared by BJP members. Hindus regard cow as a sacred animal.

“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,” said Bernard N Marak, who was the BJP’s district president in West Garo hills before he resigned last week.

Meghalaya’s dominant religion is Christianity and consumption of beef is common. Since the government ordered the cattle trade ban last month, a number of leaders and nearly 5,000 members of the BJP from Meghalaya’s Garo hills quit the party.

Four days after Bernard, Bachu C Marak, the North Garo Hills district president, also quit BJP. And resignations of nearly 5,000 youth wing workers from the area followed.

On Saturday both former BJP leaders, hundreds of others who quit the party and their friends and family members will converge at Tura, the district headquarters of West Garo Hills, to consume beef and ‘bitchi’—a local drink.

“There will be music, food and festivities. We plan to start around 5.30pm and continue till late. Some people from neighbouring districts would also come. Nearly 2,000 attendees are expected,” said Bernard.

The developments are seen by some as bad news for the BJP ahead of next year’s assembly polls. Garo Hills region has 24 of the total 60 assembly seats, and is crucial for the party’s plan to oust the ruling Congress government.

But the BJP leadership in the state and Centre appear unperturbed by the defiance over the beef. They say the deserters are opportunists and that they quit as their chances of getting party tickets for the assembly polls 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 party president Shibun Lyngdoh said.

The Centre’s notification led to murmurs of discontent in Nagaland and Mizoram as well. Assembly polls are due in both states next year and like Meghalaya, both states have dominant Christian populations and beef consumption is common.

According to data released by National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) in 2015, seven of the eight states in the region (except Tripura) were among the top 10 beef/buffalo consuming states in the country.

Meghalaya topped the list with nearly 81% of the total population consuming both beef and buffalo meat. The figure for Nagaland was 57% and 23% for Mizoram.

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