MUMBAI Mumbai, India's financial capital, has banned the slaughter and sale of meat for four days this month following a demand from the strictly vegetarian Jain community, sparking outrage among meat-eaters already upset by a permanent beef ban imposed this year.
Ban opponents created the Twitter hashtag #banistan, which trended along with #meatban, urging people to "eat and let eat".
Members of the tiny, but financially powerful, Jain community will observe a religious fast for eight days from Friday. Officials said they demanded the ban as their religion prescribes non-violence to all living beings.
The ban in Mumbai will be imposed on four non-consecutive days from Thursday, said Kaleem Pathan, deputy general manager of the city's Deonar abattoir. It covers the slaughter of buffaloes, goats and hogs, but excludes fish and poultry.
It is not unusual for authorities to impose meat-free days and ban alcohol on India's national days, but the latest strictures angered many who said religious groups should not impose their preferences on an entire city.
"The Jains are entitled to their own beliefs and can peacefully follow what they believe in," said Mumbai resident Lavanya Chhabra, who runs a firm making air fresheners for cars.
"But they should not be in any way involved in imposing a ban that affects others."
Mohammed Ali Qureshi, president of industry body the Bombay Suburban Beef Dealers' Association, said, "Jains do not eat onions and garlic as well, so tomorrow is the government going to ban those items also?"
The community forms just 2 percent of the population in Maharashtra, where Mumbai is located, Qureshi said, adding, "This is clearly not the right thing to do."
India is home to 300 million cattle and is the world's largest beef exporter and fifth-biggest consumer.
Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power last year, the rhetoric on the protection of cows, which Hindus consider holy, has increased.
Critics say tougher anti-beef laws discriminate against Muslims, Christians and lower-caste Hindus who rely on the cheap meat for protein. Butchers and cattle traders, many of them Muslim, say the push threatens thousands of jobs.
(Reporting by Swati Bhat; Editing by Clara Ferreira Marques and Clarence Fernandez)