Chennai: A three-day ‘Ambur Biriyani Festival’ slated to begin on Friday was postponed indefinitely by the Tirupattur district administration citing the possibility of rains amidst a row over a ban on beef and pork biriyani at the event.
Ambur, a town near Vellore in north Tamil Nadu is famous for its biriyani. Non-vegetarian connoisseurs visiting Ambur, situated in the midst of a flourishing leather and tannery industry, rarely complete their trip without gulping down a plate of piping hot biriyani with succulent meat that is famed to melt in the mouth.
Therefore, when the district administration publicised the conduct of the Ambur Biriyani Festival with the image of Chief Minister M K Stalin and his late father M Karunanidhi, many were excited. However, shortly thereafter a controversy erupted as the administration said it would not allow beef and pork biriyani to be served at the festival. Instead, people could partake of chicken, mutton, fish and prawn biriyani.
Considering that Ambur has a significant presence of Muslims as well as daily wage earners from the oppressed sections, there was opposition to the decision to ban beef biriyani in particular as pork is rarely used in the spicy rice dish.
Tirupattur Collector Amar Kushwaha, however, defended the decision saying he wanted to avoid a confrontation two groups had represented, one asking for beef biriyani and the other pork biriyani to be served at the festival. Stating he was not against any dish, he said it was decided to leave out beef and pork as it would hurt the “religious sentiments of Hindus and Muslims.”
The Collector said since biriyani was not served free at the festival, those preferring to eat beef biriyani could partake of it outside the stalls in the restaurants in the town.
However, Dalit and Muslim activists opposed his argument. Vanni Arasu, deputy general secretary of the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi, an ally of the ruling DMK, questioned the decision saying this went against social justice and the “Dravidian model of governance” propagated by the ruling party.
In the meantime, the Tamil Nadu State Commission for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes issued a notice to the Collector questioning the exclusion of beef biriyani. “You are required to submit your remarks as to why the same shall not be taken as a discrimination on communal basis, and initiate action for such an official discrimination,” the Commission said.
In the meantime, citing heavy rains predicted over the next two days, the district administration said the biriyani festival was being postponed.