Dog Meat Can Be Sold in Nagaland, Says Court. Can Rest of India Ever Look at It as a Food Habit?

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Dog Meat Can Be Sold in Nagaland, Says Court. Can Rest of India Ever Look at It as a Food Habit?

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

The latest to join the list of meats banned in India earlier this year was the sale of dog meat in Nagaland after much uproar. Now, the Kohima Bench of Gauhati High Court has temporarily suspended the state government’s ban that was imposed on July 2. This would mean that the commercial import, trade, and sale of dogs and dog meat in markets and restaurants in Nagaland can resume for the time being.

While the High Court had given an opportunity to the Nagaland government to file an affidavit on September 14, the government failed to do so. However, licenced dog meat traders stepped up and challenged the ban.

Stating that the ban had adversely affected both their business and livelihood, which had only worsened due to the pandemic, the traders — licensed under the Kohima Municipal Corporation for importing dogs and selling dog meat in the state — filed a petition.

After hearing the petitioners, the court ordered the interim stay on dog meat ban earlier this week, on November 25.

On July 3, Nagaland Chief Secretary Temjen Toy had tweeted the state government’s decision to ban “commercial import and trading of dogs, dog markets and also the sale of dog meat, both cooked and uncooked”. This ban was the result of animal rights activist Maneka Gandhi’s appeal to people through a tweet posted from the handle of People for Animals India, which she founded. Encouraging citizens to “protest in a civilised manner” by writing to Toy, the tweet was accompanied by a picture of incapacitated canines tied in gunny bags that went on to be widely circulated on social media platforms.

The ban came into immediate effect from July 4 across Nagaland, making it the second northeastern state to ban the import and sale of dog meat. Mizoram did so back in March.

Since time immemorial, the consumption of dog meat in the northeast has remained a topic for heated debate, owing to the cultural and community practices and sentiments in and around the region.

In an essay published in Scroll.in, anthropologist Dolly Kikon writers, “… the moral issues connected to the consumption of dog meat in India have far-reaching consequences. Besides routine arrests of people from Northeast India who are caught killing stray dogs for consumption in metropolitan cities across India, it labels a dietary choice as disgusting and repugnant. A Naga migrant who worked in a retail store in New Delhi told me that she ate her lunch alone after she had been regularly humiliated by her colleagues about the dog eating culture in Naga society.”

And the problem remains with this generalisation that everyone in Nagaland eats dog meat. A growing number of Nagas do not consume dog meat. As Kikon adds, “Dogs mean different things in Naga society: pet, companion, food, medicine, guard, spirit sensors, thief catchers and cat chasers.” Yet, it is an old food habit among some and it needs to be recognised as that.

However, most Indians have little understanding of this and as a result the debate ensues, as was seen on social media.

One Twitter user condemned the decision, stating, “instead of banning animal cruelty you just went ahead and added another chapter to it.”

Others called for “respect” of local culture.

While the Kohima bench has stated that the case will be heard after the winter vacation, the rest of India has jumped to conclusions of its own.

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