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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
News
Two giraffes pictured on Garsfontein Road, Centurion, South Africa.
i100
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm, actor was just 68
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Grad / Trainee / Experienced Recruitment Consultant - Oil & Gas

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35,000. : SThree: Progressive Global Energy a...

Commercial Property

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: KENT MARKET TOWN - An exciting new role has ar...

Financial Accountants, Cardiff, £250 p/day

£180 - £250 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Financial Accountants - Key Banking...

Regulatory Reporting-MI-Bank-Cardiff-£300/day

£200 - £500 per day + competitive: Orgtel: I am currently working on a large p...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices