ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Beef Festival at Osmania

The political battle over what we can eat is a challenge to established politics across the spectrum.

Beef, or more generally, the meat of cattle has been a contentious issue for more than a century, leading at times to riots, killings, social divisions and political movements. Much of this has been initiated by groups foregrounding their “Hindu” identity who have used the protection of the cow to mark out lines of difference from the “Other”, primarily Muslims. Indian politics and academia are by now, thanks to this bloody history, well conditioned to view public posturing over beef eating as the preserve of Hindutva politics which furthers a reactionary agenda.

The “beef festival” organised by some dalit and left student groups in Osmania University of Hyderabad has been, however, quite an unprecedented affair. This is perhaps the first time that an organised voice has been raised in favour of eating beef. What is striking is that most political formations did not know how to react to this “festival”. The secular formations, which do not want dietary restrictions imposed by law, seem to be divided, largely between those who have condemned this event for stirring up communal and caste tensions over a “trivial” issue and those who have looked on in indifference at this “spectacle”. Outside of the networks of dalit activism there do not seem to be many takers for what these groups call a movement against “Food Fascism”.

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