Kerala tourism minister Kadakampally Surendran tells Preetha Nair that communal groups were behind the controversy over his department’s recent ‘beef tweet’. Excerpts from the interview:
Kerala’s Republic Day tableau was rejected by the Centre.
It was a huge disappointment. With BJP at the Centre, we were allowed only once to participate in the parade. The reason for striking us off the list is a no-brainer—when you can’t win the game, influence the referee to cancel it!
The ‘beef fry’ tweet kicked up a storm on social media.
Beef is a must-try in Kerala—34.5 million Malayalees consumed 2.49 lakh tonnes of beef in FY2018-19. That is 7.2 kg of beef per person. The tourism department is promoting every indigenous attraction. We don’t worry about the right-wing’s ‘hurt religious sentiment’, just a venomous effort to create a controversy. India is the world’s second largest beef exporter, and it’s not Kerala, but states like Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra that produce the most beef.
There were calls to boycott Kerala and stop Malayalees from entering temples.
That kind of hate-mongering won’t affect our tourism. Kerala is a land of temples and festivals, and various communities live in harmony with each other.
Many asked Kerala Tourism to post images of pork, a taboo in Islam.
A few people were trying to polarise our food culture in a sectarian battle. I don’t think anyone else has ever tried to create hatred over a specific food. We also posted images of pork dishes earlier, but no one acted desperately violent then. Efforts to put things into a binary will be in vain as people are secular-minded.