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Rise of Vegans in Bengal

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I grew up listening from my Bengali neighbors’ stories about the cheap staple diet of West Bengal. I heard stories of labors eating Macher Jhol Bhat” for just 10 INR per plate every day. It may come as a surprise for many to see the rise of vegans of Bengal in a place like West Bengal. West Bengal’s indigenous culture is all about fishes.

In my books, I read fish was the most loved food in West Bengal. I grew up listening to the stories my Aunt shared with my mom, how she was disregarded on her D-Day since she refused to eat fish, as it was part of the ritual of her marriage ceremony.

Also Read: Celebrating Eid in a special way, Meet the Vegan Muslims

Well, that very same state, West Bengal is now observing the awakening of people towards animals. The capital of West Bengal, Kolkata, has managed to become the hotspot for many animal rights activists.

People who were silently being vegan for more than 30 years are now finally coming forward to meet people alike. They have realized that they are not alone.

Bengal stands as the second-highest in-country for consuming meat after Telangana. It is significant to see the rise of vegans in its core, which is spreading to many remote areas of West Bengal.

How can you forget the iconic “Sondesh and Roshogulla” it is believed that it runs in a Bengali’s system. Can you imagine a fair share of Bengalis, which is increasing by each day are choosing not to have these delicacies?

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In the past 3-4 years, Kolkata has seen an upsurge in the number of people turning vegan. West Bengal has been an example of rebellions; people are very liberal. Thus, acceptance for vegan should have been easy because of the inclusivity. Well, it’s not a cakewalk for vegans in Bengal. But they are uniting for their cause, to spread the message.

Altab Hossain, who is Founder of Vegan India Movement and Vegans of Bengal, has been contributing to the cause after he turned vegan from being a hard-core Meat-eating Muslim Bengali. He has seen it all from slaughtering animals with his hands to saving the same.

Altab, along with other vegan activists, has managed to create a haven for vegans online. Vegans from all parts of West Bengal are coming to join him.

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Though Altab isn’t the only flag-bearer of Veganism, there are many other vegans in Kolkata which are raising their voice and actively taking part in activism for animals.

Kolkata has observed sudden demand in the market of vegan products. With an increasing number of vegans in West Bengal, the need for vegan products has increased oo. New ventures are doing pretty well in comparison to their non-vegan competitors.

Like every new thing in the society, Veganism isn’t immune to criticism, many Bengalis have come forward to speak against it. The information on Veganism is not widely spread yet, but it is often seen as something invading Bengali culture. A lot of people believe Veganism is propaganda against Bengalis and Bengali culture.

A YouTuber named Ayantik Biswas is famous for making videos in Bangla released a video criticizing the approach of vegan activism.

Juicy Mango Media got in touch with Ayantik Biswas to know his opinion about Veganism in Bengal.

Ayantik Biswas shared banter with Vegans of Bengal over the difference of opinion in their food choices and animal rights.

Ayantik says, “I am not very nosy about vegan’s diet. So, I don’t think I should hold an opinion about their food.”

Ayantik didn’t want to be judged based on his food habits, which made him make a video roasting vegans.

Ayantik shares, “I am not doing any illegal activity by eating animals. Those animals who I eat are being raised in farms as our food. I am not judging anyone for having a plant-based diet, then why do I get judged?”

He adds, “I don’t find the logic behind the veganism.” “Do vegans don’t kill mosquito when it bites them,” Ayantik asks.

Ayantik’s experience has made him believe that some vegans are bully, but he also knows some positive vegans.

Rupan Chaudhary a member of Bangla Sommelan (a Political Organization).

Bangla Sommelan is part of Andolans, which promotes the local language. Rupan has friends who are vegans, and he has first-hand experience with Bengalis. Rupan believes Veganism is somehow related to Hindutva. He refers to Vinayak Damodar Savarkar and says, “You don’t have to be a Hindu to promote Hindutva. Anyone from any religion can promote it.’

He belive Veganism defies the Bengalis Culture and promotes Hindutva. As he thinks, Hindutva isn’t a religion, but it is an ideology.

Abhinav, Founder of Ubuntu community café, is observing a surge in business for his vegan restaurant. He gets new vegans every week coming to his restaurant to try his food.

Abhinav shares, “we often get non-vegans coming in to try out our food, and they are never disappointed.”

Abhinav’s business had to face backlash after some Bengali animal rights activists run a campaign saying, “I am a Bengali, and I love Fish, and this is why I don’t eat the.” Which brought a lot of criticism for Ubuntu Community Café. Many haters came to his café, anticipating a lousy tasting food. To their surprise, the food changed their mind, and even though they didn’t turn vegan, they turned to a few regular non-vegans.

Ubuntu Café has gained popularity in a short period owing to the increasing number of vegans in Kolkata. Which has led to the increase in demand for tasty vegan foods.

Ubuntu café has become a haven for tourists from all around the world, who are vegan.

Though the Covid-19 pandemic has slowed down and affected the majority of businesses in terms of profit, Ubuntu Café is still serving people online, even the unavailability of the dine-in option has not slowed their business down, which is an excellent sign that how rapidly Kolkata is becoming the epicentre of vegans.

Madhuja Founder of “Vegan World” started her venture in March 2020. It was the same month when India went under its first lockdown. Madhuja has observed good growth in demand and has been able to cater to the majority parts of West Bengal. The vegan world has a humungous range of vegan alternatives to animal products.

Even after starting her venture amid lockdown, Madhuja’s venture seems to make a fair profit, and the demand is excellent from all parts of West Bengal. 

Madhuja shares, “We have cashew oat milk, which is now available at most of the grocery stores. This is an excellent sign for vegan business, as an increase in demand signifies the increasing number of vegans in West Bengal.

Altab Hossain has appeared on various platforms to speak against animal cruelty. He has actively supported fellow vegans to come forward. Altab believes that he is the prophecy, and he believes that one day he will reach the mass and successfully convince a fair share of people to turn vegans.

Altab utilizes a social media platform to send out his message to the world. He has created a haven, where vegans find shelter. He also accepts non-vegans to counter with logic and tries to educate them by using animal advocacy.

He has gained support from all over the world, which has also invited unwarranted criticism against him. He often gets a threat to targeting any religious festivals.

Altab shares, “When I speak against Bali during Kali Puja, I get tagged as anti-Hindu. When I appeal to people to not slaughter animals on eid, they tag me as a BJP & RSS supporter. People claim that I have propaganda behind my love for animals.”

He is often called a non-believer by his Muslim brothers for speaking against the slaughter of animals on Eid-al-Adha. He believes sacrifice is misinterpreted by humans in the name of God in many religions and wants to remove that misconception.

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The first cow he rescued was the one bought by his brother to slaughter on Eid-ul-Adha. After failed attempts at convincing his parents, he posted on social media asking for help.

Which invited fanatics threatening his brother. Altab’s family was troubled because of this stint, and they didn’t agree even after people trying to convince them.

He was then suggested that he compensates his brother for the amount he paid for the cow. He hoped that maybe this was the way he could convince his brother, which brought up another challenge of raising funds. He got help from his international friends, and he managed to collect a sum of 40k INR. His brother finally agreed to give up the slaughter.

After the stunt, Altab pulled, which invited a threat to his brother’s family. His family disowned Altab for a brief time. He took shelter at his friend’s place. Altab successfully has managed to convince his father not to slaughter animals on Eid-ul-Adha in the name of Allah. He has managed to convince some of his relatives too to give up on slaughter on Eid-ul-Adha.

Altab believes that he will create a tribe in the future which will speak for animals and their rights.

“I want every vegan to turn into animal activists. I wish to take my cause forward and create a political party in the future.”

Altab has successfully orchestrated campaigns online and offline, where he gets many positive responses, which isn’t limited to Vegans of Bengal. He wishes to reach the masses, starting its roots from West Bengal.

Also Read: Why do we celebrate Raksha Bandhan?

Altab faces a lot of threats online, but it has never slowed down his spirit. He believes in treating everyone in the same sense, be it an animal or a human abusing him. When you see his way, he reminds you of Gandhian ways, which is Ahimsa. Ahimsa is Veganism is all about.

Altab wishes to clear all the misconceptions and myth Veganism and influence more people into turning cruelty-free. He is the face behind the rise of vegans in Bengal; he wants to arm every vegan with the weapon of activism for animals. If he ever forms a political party, it will be the representative of animals and their rights.

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