Hindu nationalists call for ‘meat eaters’ to be banned from temples

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In India, a famous actor couple has been prevented from visiting a temple over a decade-old tweet in which one of them claimed to eat beef, a sin in some branches of Hinduism. The extremists then organized a demonstration in front of the holy site that degenerated into clashes with the police. Controversy is now flooding social networks, with some demanding that meat-eaters be banned from entering temples.

By Côme Bastin, RFI correspondent in Bangalore

It happened on Tuesday, September 6, in the state of Madhya Pradesh, in central India. Actor Ranbir Kapoor and actress Alia Bhatt, a Bollywood couple who got married last April, wanted to visit the Mahakaleshwar temple, one of the holiest temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. The problem is that since his last film Brahmastra, Ranbir Kapoor has been in the crosshairs of extremists.

The reason: He tweeted in 2011 that he sometimes likes to eat beef, which is considered a sin. The Bajrang Dal, the youth wing of the Hindu nationalist movement VHP, then organized a demonstration in front of the temple. Some 50 activists, according to the local press, forced the couple back before being dispersed by the police.

The networks are flooded with petitions to ban those who eat meat from entering the temples

The controversy then erupted nationally and on the Internet. The media echoed because they were Indian movie stars and, above all, because there is no way to filter the good from the bad devotees in a temple.

Far from backing down, Hindu nationalist groups are taking the confrontation to social media. Tweets are multiplying demanding that those who eat meat be prohibited from entering temples, although no one specifically explains how to do it, and calling for a boycott of the film.

Chakrapani Maharaj, head of the extremist All India Hindu Mahasabha movement, says that unless celebrities publicly apologize, Hindu organizations around the world will bar them from temples.

On the other hand, netizens are outraged by this campaign, especially since for some Hindus, eating beef is considered normal.

The instrumentalization of Hinduism for political ends

Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party BJP came to power, Hindu nationalist movements no longer feel constrained and seek to impose a monolithic and extremist interpretation of religion.

However, not all Hindus identify with it as it is a diverse spirituality. Furthermore, this extremism is exploited politically. In this case, legislative elections are approaching in Madhya Pradesh, a BJP stronghold.

The State Minister of Culture on Thursday justified the protest against the actors in the name of respect for believers. He took advantage of the occasion to announce that from now on identity cards will be required at the entrance of certain Hindu festivals, to prevent Muslims from taking advantage of them to seduce and convert young Hindus. This has triggered a new controversy.

Hindu nationalists call for ‘meat eaters’ to be banned from temples