Indians expressing outrage that beef has been banned in the state of Maharashtra have generated one of the world's top trending hashtags.
India has a contradictory relationship with beef. It's a secular country where many eat the red meat but Hindus, who comprise 80% of India's 1.2 billion population, revere cows, leading many parts of India to place restrictions on beef. But ever since Maharashtra, one of the country's largest states with Mumbai as its capital, imposed an especially stringent beef ban on Monday, the hashtag #BeefBan has soared up Twitter's trending charts. It has become one of the most used terms on the network across the world, appearing more than 22,000 times in less than 24 hours.
Much of the conversation was critical of the decision, and tweets laced with sarcasm appeared in abundance. "Eat what we tell you to eat. Watch what we tell you to watch. Wear what we tell you to wear. Don't complain. We are a democracy. #BeefBan," was a typical example. Others used it to flag up what they saw as hypocrisy in the decision. "Now ban all these please," another said, posting a picture of all the products in which cattle are used.
Some made dark jokes to highlight other social problems facing the country, like the series of high profile rape cases. "Good to know a cow can now step out after dark and wear what she likes," wrote comedian Neeti Palta.
The overwhelming weight of opinion expressed on social media was in opposition to the ban. That may suggest that liberal voices are more dominant online, however, not that the decision is unpopular. Most tweets were published in the urban areas around Mumbai and New Delhi. Still, a distinct segment of the conversation did show support for the move. "As a Hindu, I fully support #BeefBan. Killing or instigating to kill any living creature is a sin," said one tweet. Indeed, vegetarians calling for the ban to be extended to other animals joined the debate in numbers.
Discussion of the ban dominated Reddit's India subforum, making up the top four discussion topics. Humour seemed to be the order of the day. "In addition to a weed guy and booze guy, I now have to find a beef guy!?!" said one comment.