Who can afford to be vegan in India?

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From banana bread to Dalgona cafe, every time Big Fat Bao, an anti-caste digital artist took to Instagram during the pandemic, she saw a new food recipe. But all these recipes seemed very foreign to him. “Where is the food that the normal people of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes eat? Where’s the food I like? Where are the Bhakri, Methi Bhaji and the beef, ”she would ask herself.

Soon she realized that all the food we see on Instagram was very well directed. That there were no dirty tables or messy kitchens. “People in the SC / ST community didn’t talk much about food. No other illustrator on social media was having this conversation, ”she said. So she decided to ask her mother about the history of her family’s food. “I wanted to know what food looked like in my mother’s childhood and how she learned to cook the recipes that I grew up eating,” she said.

When her mother started telling her more about the food they eat, she thought it was a good opportunity, as an artist, to document her maternal family’s food. Hence a series called “Caste and Food,” where Bao illustrated various dishes specific to the Dalit community and spoke about the complex relationship between food and the caste economy.

“As much as food is a place of knowledge, it is also a place of oppression, humiliation and demand for modernity. In many ways, he considers people humble because of their eating practices. So this new series that I want to start is all about food and politics, ”we read in his first post.

According to Bao, the way Dalit communities consume meat is very different from the way UC communities prepare meat recipes. Unlike the upper class, the upper caste people, who don’t eat all of the meat, the lower caste people eat all the parts of the meat. From skin to bone, we use everything, ”Bao said. “Unsexy meat is used by lower caste communities. We use the whole animal and don’t waste it after killing it, she added.

The digital artist also points out that Brahmanism has repeatedly attempted to homogenize “Indian food” and made it synonymous with “vegetarian food”. On the contrary, however, data from the National Family Health Survey 4 (http://rchiips.org/nfhs/NFHS-4Reports/India.pdf) suggests that 70 percent of women and 78 percent of men in the country consume some form of meat. . Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Odisha and Jharkhand are states where the proportion of non-vegetarians exceeds 97%.

In contrast, Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat and Rajasthan have the least non-vegetarian population (less than 40%), government data shows. Meat consumption in India has increased with increasing income, as has been the case elsewhere. India will consume six million tonnes of meat in 2020, according to the OECD. Almost half of the population consumes non-vegetarian meals once a week in India.

Among the vegetarian population in India, only 1% are strict vegans. Thus, the total number of vegans in India is around five million, India Today reported. Data from Google AdWords also shows that searches related to vegans increased by 47% in 2020, according to a report from The Print.

Palak went vegan 8 years ago after she started following Guru Mohanji, a spiritual leader. “My guru started sharing animal cruelty videos and told us it was against our culture,” she said. “I was in shock,” she said.

When she first embraced veganism, she struggled to adjust to the lifestyle and “so I thought creating a community of vegans who can be a support system was the way to go. necessity of the moment, ”she said. This is how she first launched Vegan, a digital organization aimed at organizing and disseminating information on veganism.

“It’s easier to be vegan in India than in any other country,” Palak said. “When I became a vegan, my cooking expenses went down. It is cheaper for people to be vegan. Our usual dal chawal is vegan. We don’t need anything else, ”said Palak.

According to Palak, “veganism must also be the future not only of India, but of the world.” She also added that “India has never been pro-meat, whether it is the majority or the minority population. Doing no harm to another is humanity and veganism is a movement for social justice, ”she said.

Another activist, Tanya Bhatia, went vegan when she learned about the cruelty of the dairy industry. “I have understood that I am consuming milk from another mother,” she said. “It was a beautiful trip full of compassion,” she added.

According to Bhatia, veganism is also a movement that unifies the classes. “The good vegan, our dal roti chawal, is something rich and poor alike have,” she said.

However, according to Bao, “I have noticed that my friends who have gone veg, all come from a very upper caste and upper class background,” she said. “I thought that not consuming meat and dairy products would be cheap. Then I realized that my vegan friends only go to the supermarket, while I go to Bhajiwala. Even in the vegan section of the supermarket, things were extremely expensive, ”she said.

Under veganism, the eating habits of SC / ST communities are also appropriate, Bao says. “There are so many videos on youtube and Tik-Tok where people invite recipes and make food out of junk. But we always have, ”she said. “We never had the opportunity to be extravagant and / or the resources and status to waste anything,” she added. “For example, we don’t think of the potato skin as something separate, we’ve always eaten it. But people from the upper castes and the social class ate potato skins in fancy and expensive restaurants, ”she said.

“When vegans say veganism is linked to ‘our culture’, they are talking about Brahmanic culture. Bao said. “Who has access to vegan food? It’s just the high caste, the upper class, she said.


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