Meat sellers across Uttar Pradesh began an indefinite strike on Monday to protest against the recent crackdown on illegal slaughterhouses. “All shops will remain closed. Fish sellers, too, have joined us and are extending support to us. The meat sellers are piqued over the crackdown on slaughterhouses, which has adversely hit the livelihood of lakhs of people,” Lucknow Bakra Gosht Vypar Mandal office-bearer Mubeen Qureshi told PTI.

Several butcher shops and slaughterhouses across the state have complained that they are being targeted under the new dispensation. “Authorities are even closing down chicken shops,” a shop owner in Noida told NDTV. Another said even legal abattoirs were asked to hang curtains in front of their stores, while others alleged that the new administration was not willing to issue fresh licences or renew the old ones.

The police, however, said they were only following procedure. “It is the police’s job to check papers,” Superintendent of Police of Gautam Budh Nagar Sujata Singh told NDTV. “Some people are closing their shops themselves because they do not have renewed licenses.”

The strike has hit restaurants that offer non-vegetarian dishes. While Lucknow’s Tunday Kababi and Rahim’s are now selling only chicken and mutton items because of the lack of buffalo meat, a few others are mulling getting mutton from Delhi. This is also expected to lead to a rise in the prices of vegetable, reported Hindustan Times.

UP Minister SN Singh has insisted that action is being taken only against illegal slaughterhouses, while the legal ones can continue to function if they follow regulations. “The government did not given any orders to close down shops selling chicken and eggs,” he told ANI. “Do not believe the news going around on social media.”

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath on Saturday had said that the crackdown ordered on meat shops and slaughterhouses would not affect those that had licences. “Those violating the orders of the National Green Tribunal, creating pollution and playing with the health of the public…all those slaughterhouses will be shut down. We have started working on it.”

Adityanath said his newly-formed government’s decision was based on the NGT’s request to take action against illegal slaughterhouses. He added that the green panel had been urging for action against such establishments for the past two years.

The crackdown has been termed a political move against small-time meat vendors. Senior Congress leader Akhilesh Pratap Singh said, “How is it that the small shops are getting closed and meat exports are going up. The government should have made people aware of the laws and rules before launching the drive.”

However, Bhartiya Janata Party national spokesman Sambit Patra defended the move against illegal abattoirs. “There has been a court order on illegal abattoirs, which was not implemented by the previous government. The state’s chief secretary has constituted committees in each district. It is visiting every slaughterhouse to see whether they are being run legally and submitting a report every day,” he said.