Bhopal: What is the minimum social distancing required to prevent religious sentiments from being hurt, five steps or just less than eight feet, if the BJP government in Madhya Pradesh is to be believed.
Last year, when in opposition in the state, the BJP had objected to chicken and cow’s milk being sold from the same state-run booth, outside the Madhya Pradesh Livestock and Poultry Development Corporation (MPLPDC) office in Bhopal.
Now back in power, the government has quietly opened two different booths five steps apart.
The earlier booth had been opened as part of the then Congress government’s policy to ensure a bigger market and better price for Kadaknath chicken, a poultry breed for which MP’s Jhabua has a Geographical Indication (GI) tag. The chicken is reared by women’s cooperatives in Jhabua and Alirajpur districts.
Many believe the chicken’s meat, which is black in colour, has medicinal and aphrodisiacal properties. It fetches Rs 900 for a kg and is primarily reared by the state’s tribal communities. The solitary booth, opened in June last year, had not attracted any attention for more than four months until the BJP opposed it.
Arguing that cow’s milk has a special significance for followers of Hinduism and Jainism and is a symbol of purity, and therefore can’t be sold together with meat, BJP the then opposition party had forced the Kamal Nath government to stop the sale of chicken from the parlour.
Finally, when the Sahakar Bharati, an organisation affiliated to the RSS, also held a protest in October, the Congress government chickened out. It stopped not just the sale of chicken from the Bhopal booth but also spiked the plan for a similar booth in Indore, the biggest city in the state.
Last month, however, two separate booths quietly began selling the Kadaknath chicken and cow milk.
“We closed the parlour last year because we were helpless. There was demand for Kadaknath before as there is now,” a top corporation official said. “The booth now sells between 20 and 25 kg of Kadaknath and 18 to 20 crates of eggs a day.”
The vendors managing the booths say they had no objections even back then.
Anand Choubey, who manages the cow’s milk parlour, said, “I had no objections when the two commodities were sold under one roof and I don’t have any objection now.”
Choubey says that when the vendor selling chicken and eggs is not around, he fills in for him. He said the vendor selling chicken and eggs is different and he does not find anything wrong in collecting money in his absence.
Attempts to contact BJP MLA Rameshwar Sharma, who was at the forefront of the protests, through phone calls for a comment were made, but there was no response until the time of publishing this report.
Sharma, now a pro tem assembly speaker, had argued last year that he was not against tribal women getting more money but he would not allow chicken to be sold from a parlour that sells cow milk.