Government is using the beef ban policy to “discipline” citizens, archaeologists and food historians alleged at a conference held in University of Mumbai on Saturday. “Around 5,000 years ago, cows and calves, being rich in protein, were primarily consumed by the ruling class,” said Kurush Dalal, Archaeologist and Assistant Professor at the University’s Centre for Extra-Mural Studies, who made a presentation on the “Archaeological Studies of Food”.
“Today, for political and ideological requirements, the government is trying to control food habits by bringing out policies and banning food items. We need to ask the government what purpose this ban serves — economical or otherwise. We need to ask why the government is promoting vegetarian food as the ideal food,” said Dalal.
According to historians, people in power have used food as a tool to control their subjects. The two-day conference, held at the Marathi Bhasha Bhavan in the Kalina campus of MU, is a confluence of archaeologists, food historians, food bloggers, nutritionists and food enthusiasts, where they exchange ideas about the culture surrounding food. The conference was initiated by the India Study Centre in association with the department of Archaeology of the University of Mumbai.
“The current restriction on beef comes from a misguided conception about what our ancestors ate and what is an ideal, Satvik diet. Once you say you are Hindu and are a protector or promoter of Hinduism, you have to go back to ancient period for everything. But when we talk about ancient history, we talk about a limited period of ancient time and not beyond that,” said Mohsina Mukadam, food historian and teacher at Ramnarain Ruia college.
According to Mukadam, nomadic people didn’t cultivate grains. They ate what was available to them. “Later, when these people settled and cultivated, food habits changed. When agriculture became the mainstay of economy, there was no need to depend on this type of meat. They started having vegetarian food. There was no need to slaughter animals anymore. This is what we need to look into while talking about food habits of India,” Mukadam told The Sunday Express.
“Famine was a serious matter for Britishers. There was a lot of research on what kind of food should be consumed. It was during this time that the Britishers promoted a certain kind of food. In prisons, too, the Britishers would dictate the diet and the quantity of food consumed by inmates,” said Mukadam.
This control was thought to be temporary, but the Indian government, too, continued to control it. “Today, rationing has become part and parcel of life,” she said. “Food becomes a tool when the government wants to control or discipline its people. The objection is to the control, which the government is indirectly having. Now, it is of beef, tomorrow it will be of other meat. Then we will quote Ayurveda and Dharmashastra on what is Satvik, Tamsik or Rajasik food,” said Mukadam.