The popular ‘carabeef’ (buffalo meat) dish will continue to be served at Kerala House in New Delhi from Wednesday after it was taken off the menu for a day amid protests against police action over a complaint from a Hindu radical.
Officials from Kerala House confirmed Tuesday that they had got orders from Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy to bring back the ‘carabeef’.
Sudheesh Kumar of Kerala House said: “We are going to bring back carabeef on the menu. We have the approval of Gyanesh Kumar, the Resident Commissioner of the Kerala government, as well.”
Kerala House clarified Monday that buffalo meat dish (‘beef fry’) was being served in its canteen and not cow’s meat as alleged by the unknown caller who was picked up by police on Tuesday for questioning.
The police “raid” on Kerala House, an official guest house of the Kerala state government, triggered protests in Delhi and an angry Chief Minister Oommen Chandy shot off a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi terming the incident as “highly objectionable”.
Charging that Delhi Police had overstepped their brief, he asked Modi to take strong action against those responsible for the incident.
Detailing the incident, Chandy said some unidentified persons accompanied by the Delhi Police officials raided the staff canteen at Kerala House.
They disrupted the functioning of the canteen alleging that cooked cow meat was being served there, Chandy said, adding that the police complaint was based on a “wrong information”.
Delhi Police officials questioned the staff regarding the food items served at the canteen and the “raid” was conducted without any permission or prior information to local state government officials, Chandy said.
The Kerala government has already lodged a complaint with the Delhi Police Commissioner in this regard, he said.
Chandy told the prime minister that the Kerala House canteen served authentic vegetarian and non-vegetarian state cuisine and the items on the menu were in accordance with and “entirely within the confines of the existing law”.
“Kerala House is not a private hotel or an institution run for making profit. It is an official guest house of the state government. The police action was really unfortunate. They should have shown some restraint before carrying out searches,” Chandy said earlier at a function in Kozhikode.
Cutting across party lines, Kerala leaders supported the chief minister.
Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala said the police action was an infringement on the powers of the state while another senior leader VM Sudheeran termed the issue a challenge to the “federal set-up of the country”.
Congress leader and former defense minister AK Antony said the freedom of an individual like what to eat and what to wear should not be infringed upon.
CPI(M) Politburo member Pinarayi Vijayan said the police action at Kerala House was part of Sangh Parivar’s (Hindu hardline group) agenda.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, while condemning the “raid” on Kerala House by Delhi Police, wondered whether a chief minister will be arrested from a state guest house if he or she is suspected of eating something that BJP does not favor.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee too waded into the beef row. “I strongly condemn what happened in Delhi at Kerala Bhavan. An unwise and unhealthy attempt to curb fundamental rights of people. Intolerance!,” she said.
The ruling BJP-led government at the Centre, however, defended the police saying they were just making enquiries following a complaint that beef was being served in the Kerala House canteen.
Accusing Chandy of “politicizing” the issue, BJP said serving of beef in restaurants in Delhi was illegal.
Delhi Police Commissioner B S Bassi said it was not a raid. “It was, in fact, a preventive measure according to our standing operating procedures.”
Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu rejected the remark that the police action was an attack on India’s federal structure, saying police were only making enquiries.
“The police action was right. It was a preventive measure within the law of the land. Chandy is trying to politicize the incident,” said BJP spokesman Siddharnath Nath Singh.
‘Bone stuck in the throat’
“Kerala’s famed beef curry has been an annoying bone that got stuck in the throat of the Sangh Parivar, especially because many Hindus in the state relish the dish,” an editorial in the Kolkata-based Telegraph newspaper said.
Arun Shourie, a veteran journalist who was a minister in the former BJP government, criticised the government, saying its policies were identical to those of the previous Congress government – except for its preoccupation with cows (read beef).
“People have started recalling the days of [former prime minister] Manmohan Singh. The way to characterise the policies of the government is – Congress plus a cow. The policies are the same,” he said at a function in Delhi.
‘Kerala House’ was one of the top trends on Twitter India, with many criticising the government as well as what they saw as overzealous police action.