AHMEDABAD, India — The raid came just after sunset. Plainclothes municipal workers swarmed into the busy neighborhood, seizing contraband. The dealers ran or watched helplessly as the authorities took their illicit goods.
And with that, the government had conducted a successful crackdown on eggs.
Not just the eggs themselves, though city officials had confiscated hundreds of trays of those, too. The authorities grabbed everything — gas canisters, bread, vegetables, plates, glasses, stools — that one might need to run a food cart to sell eggs scrambled, fried or wrapped in a fragrant breading. On the curb, only broken shells remained.
The food-cart operators who got away counted themselves lucky to have escaped.
“We found out that the truck was approaching our location,” said Virendra Ram Chandra Singh, who added that he could prepare eggs 156 ways. “We ran home with our carts, pushing hard and fast.”
The place of the humble egg in the street food culture of Gujarat, a state in western India where people take their snacks seriously, has become the latest flash point in the growing role of religion in everyday life. Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has a Hindu nationalist base, the national government has taken steps in recent years to promote the religion and to sideline Muslims and other groups.
Emboldened local governments have followed suit, enacting rules in some places that adhere closely to Hindu doctrine. That is especially true in Gujarat, which Mr. Modi led for 13 years before becoming prime minister and which is often seen as a laboratory for pushing policies to reshape India along his Hindu nationalist vision. Those include tightening a ban on alcohol and adding protections against the slaughter of cattle, which many Hindus consider sacred.
But even devout Hindus don’t always agree among themselves what practices the faithful should follow, a conflict that also raises issues of income and class. Hence the bitter disagreement over eggs.
Many Hindus are vegetarian, particularly among the elite within India’s traditional caste system, and some of them consider eggs to be meat products.
Citing complaints from Hindus as well as health concerns, local officials in Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s largest city, and at least four other cities in mid-November banned the sale and display of meat, fish and eggs on the street. As the mayor of one city, Rajkot, told the local news media: “Carts with nonvegetarian food can be seen everywhere in the city. The religious sentiments of the people are hurt by this.”
The local authorities weren’t expecting the backlash. In recent days, facing a lawsuit and protests, officials in Ahmedabad relented and allowed sales of previously forbidden food to resume for now, though the dispute is being considered by the courts. They did not respond to requests for comment.
Top leaders with Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, which dominates politics in Gujarat, deflected blame to local officials. “Some people eat vegetarian food,” …….