Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who was in Aizwal on Monday, said that people are free to choose what they want to eat, reported PTI. When asked about protests against the government’s ban on sale of cattle for slaughter, Singh clarified that the Centre will not impose any restrictions on one’s choice of food.

However, even as Singh spoke, scores of people in the Mizoram capital participated in a “beef ban bashing banquet” organised by a local organisation, according to PTI. Thousands braced heavy rainfall to gather at Vanapa Hall where the festival was held by the Zolife Group and other activists.

A writer and a member of the group, Lalrinfela Hauhnar, said a feast in Mizoram was incomplete without beef on the menu. “Beef has strong cultural importance for the Mizos,” He told The Sangai Express. Another member, Lalremruata Varte, clarified that the festival was a symbolic protest and not meant to hurt the sentiment of Hindus.

Other Northeastern states have also protested against the Centre’s new rule. In Meghalaya, two senior BJP leaders and 5,000 workers had quit the Bharatiya Janata Party as a mark of their protest against the ban. On Monday, the Meghalaya Assembly had passed a resolution against a central government notification.

In March, the BJP had indicated that its call for a ban on beef is not applicable to states in the country’s North East. Party leaders in Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland had said that the crackdown on meat shops and slaughterhouses in Uttar Pradesh would not be replicated in the three north-eastern states that will have their Assembly polls next year.