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What’s behind ban on halal-certified products in India?

It has been imposed on their ‘production, storage, distribution and sale’ in Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state
 A file picture of Yogi Adityanath, chief minister of Uttar Pradesh state in northern India.

A file picture of Yogi Adityanath, chief minister of Uttar Pradesh state in northern India. (Photo: AFP / UCA News)

Published: November 27, 2023 04:59 AM GMT
Updated: November 27, 2023 06:49 AM GMT

An “anti-halal” campaign spearheaded by certain hard-line Hindu outfits in India has culminated in a ban on the distribution, storage, and sale of halal-certified products, including dairy, garments, and medicines, in its most populous state, Uttar Pradesh.

Authorities justified the action saying halal certification agencies don’t have the expertise to test the products to ensure they meet the requirements of Islamic law and are deemed suitable for consumption by Muslims.

It is a parallel system, which creates confusion regarding the quality of the products, especially food items, they said.

It is not a coincidence that the Uttar Pradesh government led by a firebrand Hindu monk, Yogi Adityanath, has become the first pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled province to issue such a ban.

The BJP’s Narendra Modi has been the prime minister for nearly a decade now, but despite his pro-Hindu image — there isn’t a single Muslim member in his cabinet — he has chosen not to oblige the hardliners campaigning against halal certification.

Adityanath in comparison looks in a tearing hurry and seems unstoppable when it comes to pushing the BJP’s divisive and polarizing agenda. Muslims are invariably at the receiving end of his hate-driven rhetoric and policies.

"It has sent shock waves among a section of Muslims, particularly those agencies that have been issuing halal certificates for a fee"

He acts as if he is head of a "Hindu Rastra" (nation of Hindus) and not a mere state chief minister, although the most populous one. He became famous for delivering “bulldozer justice” by demolishing encroachments on public land and ill-gotten properties of criminals. Targeted were Muslims, but also marginalized communities among the Hindus.

The banning of halal-certified products was equally swift and decisive, although he did exempt those meant for export, particularly to the Middle East, where this certification is mandatory.

The ban came in the wake of the state’s police registering a case on Nov. 17 against entities such as Halal India Private Limited Chennai, Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind Halal Trust Delhi, and Halal Council of India Mumbai, among others for allegedly “exploiting religious sentiments to boost sales” by providing halal certificates.

It has sent shock waves among a section of Muslims, particularly those agencies that have been issuing halal certificates for a fee. These agencies now suddenly find themselves in the dock.

Interestingly, the BJP-led federal and state governments are not on the same page on the issue. Federal Home Minister Amit Shah told the media that the government in New Delhi “has not taken any decision to ban halal-certified products as yet.”

Thus the state government’s unilateral ban has sparked a nationwide debate, inviting flak from opposition parties alleging it is a ploy to divide people on religious lines. Some opposition leaders have questioned the double standards, asking why halal products meant for exports are being exempt. Why not go for a complete ban?

The Uttar Pradesh Food Safety and Drugs Administration clarified that there is no ban on halal meat in the state either, giving due consideration to the sensitivities of those who consume only halal meat.

Adityanath, who previously banned meat shops owned by Muslims, saying they did not have proper licenses, remains unfazed.

"The chief minister is merely trying to appease the BJP’s core Hindu electorate ahead of national elections next year"

For some time now, members of hard-line Hindu groups in India have been protesting against the sale of Halal food in India. Last year they ran a campaign against it, dubbing it "economic jihad” in the southern state of Karnataka. They urged people not to purchase halal meat and even attacked a Muslim meat seller.

The Uttar Pradesh government sees the marketing of halal products as a “conspiracy” with a possible “terror funding angle” to it, which the state police are probing.

His critics might perceive this as “Islamophobia,” but the chief minister is merely trying to appease the BJP’s core Hindu electorate ahead of national elections next year. Adityanath is also trying to make himself indispensable in his party’s scheme of things.

There are rumors he may be removed from his post of chief minister if the BJP does badly in the ongoing elections in five states, the results of which will be out on Dec. 3. By boosting his staunch Hindu image, Adityanath is trying to desperately hold onto the most populous state, which elects the highest number of parliamentarians and is crucial to forming a government in New Delhi.

Will he succeed and survive? Only time will tell.

A section of Muslims is crying wolf, alleging a sectarian agenda while another section is supporting the crackdown on what they call “fake certification” that does not fulfill sharia guidelines.  There is a possibility of the ban being challenged in the courts but there are those who want it to be confirmed to save the gullible masses from being exploited.

Khalid Mohammed, a minority leader in Uttar Pradesh’s Meerut city, which has a sizable Muslim presence, said it is a non-issue and nobody from the community is discussing it. “Actually, the ordinary Muslim who does not go to plush supermarkets is not at all affected. He is least bothered about the ban. We get our Halal meat in the local shops. Halal meat is not banned, only Halal-certified products are,” he explained.

The Adityanath government’s ban may have not impacted ordinary Muslims and may have had no political impact whatsoever. But it does have propaganda value in the run-up to a crucial election for Indian democracy.

The timing of the ban indicates what lies in store for Indian democracy as the poll campaign picks up a few weeks from now.

*The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.

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