Politicisation of Food in India

by September 5, 2019 0 comments

Kerala forum pulls out beef curry from German food festival after protests by right-wingers

If the wise George Bernard Shaw is to be believed, there is no love sincerer than the love of food. Indeed, for a country as rich and diverse as India, one which is known for its regional and cultural diversity, food, too, comes with its own variants — spicy, steamed, bland, pickled, vegetarian and non-vegetarian — all culminating in the sweetness of desserts. It is this diversity of food that envelopes all our five senses so wholesomely that we get our first lesson in tolerance —  respect the cultural and religious sensitivities surrounding it. The food republic is the most democratic there is and has stayed apolitical. Why then should food selection be governed by political interests? Or for that matter, why should religion interfere with one’s choice of food? Unbelievable as it is, the Kerala Samajam Frankfurt, a Malayali cultural organisation in Germany, which showcased a speciality beef curry at a food festival in the meat-eating country, was forced to drop it on the instructions of the Consulate-General of India. The rationale for the ban was that “people with vested interests” had raised objections against the menu and “threatened a ruckus.” So it requested the organisation to “revise” its menu and ensure “the event could be held without any incidents.” Ironically, the absence of beef curry at the stall meant there were no takers either for the crispy parotta, the “certified vegetarian bread” meant to be had with it. In the end, our stall had to be shut down. Shamefully, it took the German police to censure our troublemakers. They made it abundantly clear that Germany did not forbid anyone from eating what they liked and such domestic concerns clearly didn’t merit any attention. What the Hindu far right must understand is that we have enough international blots already and we could certainly do without one that challenges our brand of diversity and tolerance, shows us in a poor light of revisionism and makes us look hypocritical as global citizens.

The incident not only reeks of political point-scoring but also militates against the idea of having food as a basic human right. As a matter of fact, the politicisation of food has been gaining ground with some rightist advocates claiming they were just ensuring animal rights. The act of eating or choosing what to eat has never been questioned the way it is being in “New India” or punished, right from the killing of cattle farmers transporting animals on the suspicion of smuggling to cow lynchings. What are we saying, India ought to be a vegetarian nation? We should be food diplomats instead and not let the chilli get to the brain.

Writer & Courtesy: The Pioneer

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