Slogans like “Food has no religion” or “Food is religion” came up during the row over a Zomato customer wishing to cancel an order due to the delivery executive’s religion. The firm’s principled stand that it wouldn’t give in to bigotry struck a chord nationwide, and a blow was struck for equality. But now a clever politician in West Bengal has picked up the thread and spun it into a multi-religious issue, as Zomato employees threatened to strike over pay cuts. The spinmaster shrewdly tweaked worker unrest with his supposed religion neutrality, by raising the subject of beef and pork deliveries. A divisive agenda could not have played out at a worse time as the lives and livelihoods of so many are at stake.
Cultural practices may have derived from religion, with sections of people particular about avoiding foods that were apparently against their beliefs. In fact, the 1857 Great Indian Mutiny began with the religious sensitivity of sepoys biting into new cartridges that were rumoured to have been made with cow and pig fat. What we are seeing is, perhaps, a second wave of such sensitivity dug up, unwittingly or otherwise, by a Mangal Pandey wannabe in a BJP legislator. Truth to tell, food delivery is livelihood in a sunrise, app-based industry for many youths who would otherwise be unemployed. With the economy decelerating and the job market gloomy, delivery agents may have no choice in what packed food they have to deliver. Above all, an indubitable fact of life is what is on anyone’s plate is his wish and pleasure, and no one else can have a say, most so in a multicultural democracy like India.