‘Nothing but goondagardi’: Sardhana food cart owner says threats to non-veg food are unprecedented

Mohammad Sajid has been selling biryani in the Meerut Road market in Sardhana, Uttar Pradesh for three years. A day before the first fasting day in Navratri, Sajid claimed to have received oral instructions from the local police not to sell non-vegetarian biryani from the next day.

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Sajid followed the instructions and started selling soy biryani instead. On Saturday, a group of people vandalized his cart alleging he was selling non-vegetarian food. “It was a normal working day for me. Some people came and asked what food I was selling. I told them it was soy biryani. They kept saying I was selling non-vegetarian products which was against the rule. By the time I realized it, my entire stand had been knocked down. They abused us again and again,” Sajid, 21, told the Indian Express.

Sardhana Police on Saturday charged Sachin Khatik, the head of Sangeet Som Sena state linked to former BJP lawmaker Sangeet Som, and six others with trying to disturb the community peace after he allegedly vandalized the cart of food claiming that Sajid was selling mutton biryani. The team reportedly previously called for a ban on the sale of meat and non-vegetarian foods in Sardhana during the nine-day Navratri festival which kicked off on Saturday.

Sajid and his brother previously lived closer to Meerut City and moved to Sardhana a few years ago to sell food. He said that before Saturday there would be oral communication about not selling non-vegetarian items during Navratri, but there was no disruption. “It’s nothing but goondagardi. These people came to throw away our things. We even lost around Rs 15,000 which was in our collection box. It is not the first time that there is a Navratri here. Previously, we did not sell on the street side, but now we are threatened. This is unprecedented,” Sajid said.

Even as Sajid recalled his ordeal, a customer approached the stall to ask what biryani he was selling. Sajid assured the person that he was a vegetarian and would remain so until the end of the Navratris. “Our sales drop during Ramzan. But with that, we have hardly any sales. Our clients also belong to other religions. And many want to eat non-vegetarian too. But now it looks like things have changed,” Sajid said.

According to the police, they haven’t arrested anyone yet. “We received a complaint from the food vendor. He is under investigation. There is no written order, we only communicated orally that meat should not be sold during Navratra. For general information purposes, this was communicated through oral instructions,” said Laxman Verma of SHO Sardhana Police Station.

Samajwadi party leader Atul Pradhan, who beat Sangeet Som, also indicted in a Muzaffarnagar riots case, in the Sardhana Assembly elections, his wife and party supporters met with the administration on Tuesday to expedite action in the case.