With the onset of Navratri, far-right television channel Sudarshan News raked up yet another controversy with its Editor-in-Chief Suresh Chavhanke alleging a "conspiracy" behind Haldiram's writing the ingredients of one of its products (also consumed by people fasting during Navratri) in "Urdu". (An archived version of the tweet can be viewed here.)
Taking a cue from this, the channel's reporter barged inside an outlet of the store in Delhi-NCR and questioned the company on the use of the language accusing them of "hiding something".
However, what the channel and Chavhanke failed to mention was that what they saw on the packet was a standard practice followed by all companies that export to the west Asian countries.
Further, the ingredients on the package were not only mentioned in Arabic, but also in English. (Again, a standard practice!)
Oh, and what they called Urdu, was actually Arabic.
It's a Standard Procedure, Not a Conspiracy
The product in question here is – "Falahari Mixture".
A quick Google search for the product landed us on an Amazon page, which showed the front and back of the packet. The ingredients, here, were mentioned in English and Arabic. It also specifies that the product is meant to be "imported by Dubai".
We found the same on Haldiram's website.
We then looked up the requirements for exporting food items to Dubai and found an advisory on The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority's (APEDA) website.
APEDA is a Government of India body, which monitors and regulates the export of agriculture and value-added food items.
According to the advisory, India was the top exporting company to UAE, followed by the UK, the Netherlands, Oman, and the USA.
The advisory stated the label requirements, which said information such as brand name, product name, ingredients, name, and number of additives, warnings and nutritional facts must be mentioned in Arabic.
Other Indian products that are sold in Dubai's online stores also have labels printed in Arabic. We found some of the products on the website of Dubai-based supermarket chain called Noon.
A link to the product can be found here.
A link to the product can be found here.
The requirement is mandated by the government and municipality bodies in the UAE and is standard for several other countries that intend to export to the UAE.
We also found the regulations for American countries and it stated the same requirements.
Using Misinformation to Fuel Hate
Before Haldiram's, other Indian companies have had to face the brunt of such social media vigilantes.
Recently, Himalaya Wellness Company and its subsidiaries were targeted after a screenshot of a notice showing its halal policy went viral.
The same people calling for a boycott of halal products in Karnataka campaigned against Himalaya and asked people to stop using the company's products.
It is important to note that several major FMCG companies also get the halal certification for exporting their products to the middle east, a fact that was lost in the online chatter.
Himalaya issued a statement explaining the reason for their halal policy and addressing the other misinformation that was spread about the company regarding the use of meat or animal-derived components in some its products.
A similar boycott campaign was launched against a Bengaluru-based food start-up called iD Fresh Foods.
Social media users shared false claims about the products sold by the company while referring to the religious identity of the company promoters and employees. The company, too, had to issue to statement clarifying their position and ingredients.
Sudarshan News, a Repeat And Habitual Offender
This is not the first time that Sudarshan News and Suresh Chavhanke have served partial information as the truth. In the past, the channel and its editor-in-chief have been called out for spreading hate, often relying on mis/disinformation.
In 2020, the channel aired a show titled ‘UPSC Jihad Par Ab Tak Ka Sabse Bada Khulasa (The Biggest Expose of All Time on UPSC Jihad)’, in which Chavhanke spoke about the exam and claimed that it was structured to favour the Muslims.
The Quint’s WebQoof team, in a detailed fact-check, had debunked these claims, showing how most of them were packaged to promote enmity between communities and were not based in fact.
Even the Supreme Court, in a September order, had called the content of the show “divisive’ and “insidious”.
Similar to this, there have been several instances where Sudarshan News has given false communal spin to incidents. For instance, the channel ran a show after Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan was seen offering a dua (prayer) at singer Lata Mangeshkar’s funeral, where the callers alleged that the superstar was seen spitting on Mangeshkar’s mortal remain – a blatant lie which was amplified by several on social media.
Chavhanke was also a part of the brigade that indulged in spreading hate, fake news, and misinformation around the Tablighi Jamaat event that happened in Delhi in 2020, during the first wave of the COVID pandemic.
Back in 2019, after the brutal rape and murder of a 26-year-old veterinary doctor in Hyderabad, Chavhanke was among the people who said that the police arrested the Hindu men involved in the crime as a “balancing act” as one of the accused was a Muslim.
And the list of such claims and narratives from Chavhanke is endless.
Interestingly, according to a report by Newslaundry in October 2020, Sudarshan News received negligible money from the central government between 2011 and 2014, but the money shot up considerably between 2014 and 2018.
As per news reports, in 2017, Chavhanke was arrested for inciting communal hatred in Uttar Pradesh. But he has continued to circulate misinformation (even bigotry and hate) through his channel.
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