Out of India: Hindu right-wing takes tough line in beef about meat

NEW DELHI - It won't be long now, a few days, a month maybe, before the Indian police catch up with me. I'm worried. I've broken the law, and I need help in destroying some evidence. There's only one man who can help me. They call him the 'Wonder Glutton'.

He seems like a hard man to do business with, but I'm desperate. I'm staring at, what, a stretch of up to five years in a Delhi jail? Maybe you've never heard of the Wonder Glutton, but he once was in the Guinness Book of Records. His real name is Jagir Singh, 68, and he ATE a lorry in nine months. He was bumped out of the record book, though, by a Frenchman who chewed his way through an entire plane. When he wasn't chomping on an exhaust pipe or tucking into an engine block in its own juices, Mr Singh whet his appetite on razor blades and light bulbs.

It's a small job I have for the Wonder Glutton. I need him to devour a tin of corned beef, tin and all.

That's right, a tin of corned beef. I have it hidden in my kitchen cupboard under bags of lentils and rice. When the police raid the house, I can always plead ignorance (it's an excuse most people are ready to believe for journalists). Incredulity is more apt in this case. Who would think that beef-eaters would be hunted down in Delhi like pimps and thieves, but that is exactly what has happened.

The Delhi local assembly is ruled by the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party, who are Hindus and strident vegetarians to the very core. Two weeks ago they passed a law making it a criminal, non-bailable offence to possess the meat of cows, calves, bullocks or bulls. The maximum five-year jail sentence, along with a 10,000-rupee fine ( pounds 215), is as harsh as the punishment for being caught with drugs or firearms.

The cow is sacred to Hindus, and the thought of eating, say, a hamburger fills them with a revulsion akin to what we might feel if offered a plate of roast human leg. Many Hindus suspect that a few of the thousands of cows roaming free around Delhi were captured late at night and chopped into steaks by Muslim butchers. It was a source of deep, though unproven, suspicion that many Hindus held against the Muslims - but no more.

Now it is impossible to find meat of any kind, except chicken, in Delhi. A high court ruled that the city's main Idgah abattoir was killing too many animals. More than 12,500 sheep, goats and buffaloes a day were slaughtered there under infernal conditions. Health inspection was non-existent, and the ghastly sludge of blood and offal was being dumped in Delhi's Yamuna river.

When the court tried to limit the number of carcasses to 2,500 a day, all of Delhi's butchers, who are mainly Muslims, went on strike. They bring their animals to the abattoir, and the long queues of beasts would bring even greater havoc to Delhi. There were mutterings of 'vegetarian fundamentalism' in the press, and Muslims complained that it was all a Hindu plot to deprive them of jobs and mutton tandoori.

The Jains, a rich yet ascetic community who take non-violence to such extremes that their monks sweep their paths free of insects so they don't accidentally squash them, think that the slaughterhouse should be shut down for good. They would like to see Delhi's 10 million citizens become vegetarians. The Jains have even offered to find new jobs for the abattoir's butchers.

Acharya Sushi Muni, a Jain spiritual leader, said: 'Provided they give up their profession and convert to vegetarianism, we will ensure that they take up other jobs as vegetable vendors and taxi drivers.' It could be argued, though, that if the repentant butchers are like Delhi's other taxi drivers, the carnage they create on the roads will be far worse than in the abattoir.

Naturally, a black market for meat now thrives. The price of chicken has gone up a tenfold, and the juiciest, most sought after birds are those raised in a leper colony. There is, however, meat to be had in the city. Several meat-starved Saudi Arabian diplomats have been spotted slaughtering goats and even a deer in their back gardens. And out by Indira Gandhi International Airport, so many illegal slaughterhouses have sprung up in the last month that the circling vultures are now a hazard for planes.

In the meantime, I wonder what to do with my tin of beef. After reading the Indian press's horrible accounts of the Delhi abattoir (try to imagine killing enough animals every day to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool with blood and them dumping all this mess into the city's river), I confess that I don't find my tinned beef that tempting anymore. And, perhaps, neither would the Wonder Glutton. He is, after all, a man of discerning taste: the last lorry he ate was a Mercedes Benz.

Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Service Delivery Manager - Software Company

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Service Delivery Manager Kingston Up...

Year 3 Teacher

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Year 3 Primary Teacher in HullA f...

Drama Teacher - Hull and Grimsby

Negotiable: Randstad Education Hull: The JobRandstad are currently in need of ...

Reception Teacher

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education is the UK mark...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments