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Post-lunch knock: do you serve beef?

Police go to Kerala House after 'call'

By Pheroze L. Vincent and Imran Ahmed Siddiqui
  • Published 27.10.15
Police at Kerala House

New Delhi, Oct. 26: A Delhi police team today called on Kerala House, the southern state's guesthouse in the capital and known for its beef fry, to verify a complaint that cow meat was being served in the canteen.

The police projected the enquiry as an attempt to protect the establishment from rabble-rousers and picked up a Hindu Sena "caller" for questioning.

But others refused to buy the "too pat a story", against the backdrop of the Dadri lynching and a hint by Kerala House this evening that the beef fry, made of buffalo meat, might be taken off the menu to avoid problems. Several restaurants in Delhi now serve buffalo meat as tenderloin steak, and if the police, unwittingly or otherwise, send a team to verify each complaint, there will be a ripple effect and it will be another instance of the State interfering with diet.

Some sources suspected that an arm-twisting tactic is being employed to browbeat Kerala House, which is actually the mission house of Kerala, one of the few states, other than Bengal and the Northeast, where consumption of cow meat is legal.

Kerala's famed beef curry has been an annoying bone that got stuck in the throat of the Sangh parivar, especially because many Hindus in the state relish the dish.

At Kerala House, located on Jantar Mantar Road in the heart of New Delhi, sources said three men visited the Samriddhi canteen in the annexe this afternoon.

"One of them was Malayali and the other two were Kannadiga. They asked if beef fry on the menu is made of cow meat. We said that it is buffalo meat as cow meat is illegal in Delhi. They left after an altercation with the staff," a source said.

Two hours later, 30 policemen came to the canteen and questioned the staff, according to the source. They left after being told that it was buffalo meat. It is not clear why a contingent of 30 policemen had to be sent.

The police did not confirm the number of personnel but deputy commissioner Jatin Narwal said: "We sent a team to Kerala House to ensure that no untoward incident happens there." The officer said a mischievous call was received, which was traced to a Hindu Sena activist who was being questioned.

Unlike in Kerala and Bengal, slaughter and possession (without which consumption is not possible) of "agricultural cattle" (cow, calf, bull and bullock) are offences in Delhi, punishable with five years in jail and a fine. Buffalo meat is not banned.

A regular at the Kerala House canteen described its beef fry as "a more proletarian variant than the richly spiced coconut beef fry" because the Delhi dish is made with more onion and lots of green chillies. On the menu, only beef fry is written in Malayalam while the rest is in English.

Told of the police "enquiry", the regular quipped: "What did they hope to find? The beef fry is so good it gets over before 3pm."

All's not well for the beef fry. A source said that in the light of today's incident, Kerala House was thinking of not serving the dish - in which case the "mischievous caller" would have achieved his objective.

The beef fry had vanished once after an official from northern India was put in charge of Kerala House. It made a comeback after the issue reached chief minister Oommen Chandy.

Additional reporting by Ananthakrishnan G