An exhibition which was supposed to showcase the food of the over 5000-year-old Indus Valley Civilisation has barred non-vegetarian dishes from being served despite umpteen research that says that food of the kind was ubiquitous during the period.
Jointly organised by New Delhi’s National Museum which is under administrative control of the Ministry of Culture and private firm One Station Million Stories (OSMS), the objective of the week-long exhibition titled ‘Historical Gastronomica - The Indus Dining Experience’ is to show “how the first humans evolved due to food habits.”
However, under the Modi government, history has to adjust – considering several ‘sensitivities’ – to the whims and fancies of its members in executive positions.
According to sources in the Ministry of Culture quoted by The Indian Express, the decision to not serve non-vegetarian food during the event was taken was taken only a day before the exhibition was scheduled to begin, following reactions to the menu shared online by “a couple of MPs.” The OSMS was subsequently informed of the development by the museum which cited unspecified rules, the daily reported.
Additional director general of the museum, Subrata Nath, reportedly denied knowledge of any “external interference”. However, when asked why the government cleared and advertised the non-vegetarian menu in the first place, he told the newspaper that the menu was “very well researched but they should not have opted for the non-veg dishes.” He added that following a discussion, officials were able to avoid “what could have become an embarrassment.”
Nath is also quoted saying that since the museum has numerous idols of gods and goddesses and international dignitaries visit it, they had to “consider these sensitivities”. The newspaper mentioned that OSMS has stopped accepting bookings for the non-vegetarian tasting menu during the exhibition which will be on between February 19 and 25.
‘Brahmanical, Upper Caste Notions Creating False Image’
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and several other saffron outfits have long been promoting vegetarianism over a non-vegetarian diet. It did this by labelling non-vegetarian food ‘unhealthy’ at times and by celebrating vegetarian food as ‘purer’ on other occasions.
Both claims, as absurd as they sound, have failed to stop the BJP’s propaganda from persisting with the ‘myth’ that the country is largely vegetarian. The idea is more worrisome when forced upon on state institutions or services.
In July 2017, state carrier Air India announced that it would stop serving non- vegetarian meals to passengers in economy class during domestic flights. The reasons cited were to cut down on costs and to stop wastage.
In another instance, the Indian Railways proposed to provide only vegetarian meals for a day on trains to mark the 150th anniversary of Gandhi Jayanti. The proposal was withdrawn after coming in for criticism.
Several cases of BJP states being resistant to eggs in government run mid-day meals served in schools and aanganwadis across India have been reported. All of this despite data which shows that a majority of Indians consume eggs, fish, chicken or meat occasionally – 80% of Indian men and 70% of Indian women, according to an IndiaSpend analysis of national health data.
D. Raghunandan of Delhi Science Forum accuses the BJP of constructing a “false image” about food habits of Indians. “These are decisions that are driven by Brahmanical and upper caste notions. The idea, thus foisted, has less to do with reality as has also been shown by numerous studies,” he said.
Speaking on the barring of non-veg dishes by the national museum Raghunandan said that it is a “construction of a false history. Vegetarianism, as per the records, is a much later development in our history.”
By pushing for only vegetarian food items in an event which aims to showcase elements of the Harappan Era, it basically says that even the Harappans didn’t consume non-vegetarian food, which is absolutely misleading, he added.