The closure of illegal slaughter houses by the Yogi Adityanath-led Uttar Pradesh government has virtually shut down a large majority of meat shops in Noida. Meat sellers and butchers alike have alleged that the police have forcibly closed their stores, despite many of them possessing legitimate licenses for their businesses.
Their future is now on the proverbial chopping board, and every day, as they wait without work, the scores of people who depend on them suffer as well. Here are a few stories of the butchers who have nothing left but each other.
How do you feel about your leadership in light of everything that’s happened?
Modi likes his job, he takes it seriously. He works hard, and we do our job properly. Then why do we suffer? When Modi was in charge of Gujarat, nothing like this had ever happened, then why is it happening now?
I do, however, believe that Yogi Adityanath will do a good job. He has started campaigns to try and make women’s lives better. He’ll get it right eventually. We all believe he’ll get it right.
What is the impact of this ban?
There are 70 shops on these two streets, and 500 immediate families depend on the income from our stores. So you can imagine how many more people depend on it.
We followed the law, but we lost it all.
Allah ke ilaava hamare pass sirf umeed hai (Apart from God, all we have left is hope)
Did you ever think something like this would happen?
Governments have come and gone, BJP ones as well, but this is the first time anything like this has happened. I could have never imagined this.
A lot has been said about legal norms. What do you feel about that?
If the rules are made, they’re made for everyone. If the government tells you to get a license, you get one. We followed the rules, but we got punished – what are we supposed to believe now?
Why are you still here if your shops have been shut?
We don’t know anything else, we haven’t been taught anything else. What are we supposed to do? Where are we supposed to go?
How does this affect you personally?
Me? My family, my brother, my children, all depend on whatever we can earn from the meat shop.
We don’t have a meat shop now, we don’t know when we can start again. What I do know is that my children are going hungry. I can’t pay for their school, and right now, I can’t do anything.
It doesn’t stop there – the people who transport buffaloes, the employees who work with us, and their families too – they don’t know any other work. What are any of us really supposed to do now? It’s not Modi Modi anymore, it’s Yogi Yogi, and that’s the way it’ll be in Uttar Pradesh.
How long have you been working here?
I’ve been here for 30 years. My father had been here for 30 years before me. This is the first time anyone has ever shut us down like this. I started working here when I was 16, that’s all that I know. That’s all my father knew, and right now, that’s all that my kids know.
Does this ban go beyond being an economic inconvenience?
Our entire khandaan is attached to this. Qureshi’s are butchers by name and are proud of it. Ye izzat ki baat hai (It’s a matter of respect).
I don’t have a license, and I believe everyone should have one. I want to follow the rules. But like demonetisation, they didn’t give us a warning, they just shut everything down and expected us to carry on. If everyone needs a license, they should give us some time to get one, and everyone can carry follow the rules and live happily. Now, I fear they want to shut us down for good, and I can’t be convinced to think any other way.
What has happened to your store?
I had two cows behind me. I had two tables, a back storage area, and two chairs as well for people to sit on. Now all I have is a charpai and nothing else.
Do you feel you have been treated unfairly?
I’ve renewed my license twice and I’m waiting for my third renewal. Whenever I’ve waited in the past, I’ve never been shut down. This is the first time it’s happened, and it has made me angry, but anger wont bring my livelihood back. Butchers and meat sellers in other states have never been banned like this. In Maharashtra and Kerala, people have been have only been shut during Hindu festivals, and reopened shortly after.
How have your children been affected?
They’re at home right now. The school is going to call next week, asking for the fees which I can no longer afford. I want them to go to school, I want them to have what I didn’t, and now they might go hungry.
Do you feel that things will slowly blow over?
I need to feed my family somehow, but right now, I can’t think of anything.
Upar allah neeche government, aur beechh main phasse hum.
(God is heaven, the Government is hell, and I’m stuck in between)
Will you start looking for work elsewhere?
Why should I? This is all I’ve been taught, this is all I can do. I don’t know anything about fruits and vegetables? Will I start selling those? I’ve made an effort to sell all kinds of meet, even pork, as there is a demand.
Do you have any hope for the future?
I’m at the mercy of the government. Only God can rescue me now. All I can do now is wait and hope things change. My children are ready to take over from me, they want me to rest, but what can I leave for them if everything I have is taken away from me?
What would you like to tell CM Yogi Adityanath?
If I could meet him, I would look into his eyes and ask him to reconsider. I would want him to give us time to get our license, so that we can feed our children and look after our loved ones.
Mohammad Nadeem Qureshi
What happens now, for you and your family?
My father came here in 1955. I’ve been here since 1970. We’ve seen a fair share of fights, we’ve been removed from and re-welcomed into our home, we’ve seen riots, but we’ve never seen anything like this. Forcibly stopped from doing what we love – is there any fate worse than that?
Do you still live in fear, or has the worst passed?
A police Gypsy circled us only two minutes ago, and they’ll come back again in a few hours. They can’t be blamed though, they’re just following orders. What do they know? I have five children and I have a grandchild on the way. I can’t bear to see them hungry. I’ll die before I let that happen.
Have you managed to cope with the closure of your store?
I have a gas stove, my wife can make roti’s, so for now, I can get by. However, all the employees I had are hungry. My children are hungry, and even the cats that I feed haven’t eaten in days.
Is there any other form of work you can do?
I’m 45 years old, my bones are weak, I can’t be a mason, I can’t drive a rickshaw. There’s very little I can do. I can’t lose hope, especially now. My son needs to study so he can make something of himself. I have to do whatever I can to keep him school. I don’t want to force him into work now.
You seem like the youngest person here, why is that?
My father passed away recently. He was a butcher, a proud butcher, and wanted me to continue his business.
How badly has your business been hit?
By God’s grace, I’m one of the lucky ones. My brother owns a hotel and I run it as well. We were also shut down, but they’ve slowly let us open shop again. I only serve vegetarian food now, and that has hit my business badly. But at least I’m still getting some income.
But you’re still worried?
All the people here are my family – not by blood, but by a sense of community. I can’t be so selfish to just be worried about myself. These butchers’ children go to school with my children. They’re my family too.