IT WAS a quiet Eid for the Qureshis.
A community of biryani vendors, they have all packed up their food stalls for good. A few broken bamboo poles are the last traces of their once thriving food business, and the truck drivers, for whom the stretch of road between Doha and Mundaka village in Ferozepur Jhirka Tehsil in Mewat District of Haryana, was a daily halt, are now seen just driving past it.
“I have completely shut my business. I am tired of the raids, accusations from villagers… Ab kuch aur karenge (I will take up another job),” snaps Shaukat Ahmed Qureshi, 17, when asked about the missing food stalls. “Every day someone is here to ask us questions, I don’t want to say anything. Chicken, mutton, buffalo, I don’t want to cook any of it now,” he adds, before angrily retreating into his home.
After seven samples of meat from their biryani were taken by the police 10 days ago for testing, following “complaints” of alleged use of beef, things have not been the same for members of the Qureshi community. And just when a few of them, such as Shaukat, decided to dig in their heels and continue with their business, an unofficial panchayat resolution has forced them to “compromise”.
“How could they continue with a job that brings shame to the community? There was a panchayat meeting held on Sunday and the Qureshis have agreed to give up the biryani business. If, despite the decision, they continue to sell biryani, then they can only use chicken,” says Hussain Deed, 50, a Meo-Muslim, who, like other members of the community, has been opposing the Qureshis’ biryani business.
So while the Qureshis claim to have “accepted” the village’s decision, they are yet to find another source of livelihood. “It is all very well to say that go out and sell chicken biryani, but do you know how expensive it is? We can’t buy rice, how will we afford chicken? The Meo-Muslims and Hindus in the village have snatched our livelihoods,” says Wasim Qureshi, 18, who owned a biryani stall.
Despite their differences, the Meo-Muslims and Qureshi-Muslims had been celebrating Eid together for years. But this time the usual revelry was marred by the developments of the past month. “We didn’t even speak to each other. There is nothing to say,” says Nagina Qureshi, 33, who prepared the biryani her husband sold for the past eight years. She has three children.
Says Arif Khan, a Meo-Muslim and the ‘mohalla pradhan’ of Doha village, “See, now that they have stopped selling biryani, there are no raids, there is peace everywhere, this is how it should be.” But what about the lack of other job options for the Qureshis? “Well I know they don’t have land, but there is no harm in working on other people’s fields,” he says.
Though this Eid has not turned out the way they would have wanted it to be, the Qureshis are hoping that the meat test results will help prove the villagers wrong. “Let the results come, everyone will know the truth then,” says Wasim.