Earlier in March, right-wing organisations Hindu Janajagruti Samiti and Sri Ram Sene demanded a ban on Halal-certified meat in Karnataka. The issue was particularly raised during the festival of Ugadi – beginning of New Year in the Southern states of Karnataka, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh in March.
Adding to the accusations by Hindutva organisations, Bharatiya Janata Party leaders like CT Ravi termed the practice of selling Halal meat as ‘economic jihad’. Now, after six months, the right-wing outfits have relaunched their campaign ahead of Diwali, asking Hindus to boycott Muslim meat sellers and stop consuming products with Halal labels. The Quint spoke to meat sellers and farmers selling livestock to understand the implications of such a boycott.
Leave Politics Aside and Let People Decide: Experts
So, what is Halal?
Halal is not just limited to a method of slaughtering, in which the throat of the animal is cut until all the blood is drained. The process is also accompanied by a prayer, if the butchers are Muslim.
Islamic cleric Umar Shareef explains that the word Halal in Arabic literally translates to 'permitted' or ‘lawful,' as opposed to Haram – which means 'prohibited for consumption.'
In a nutshell, any food or product which is unadulterated and is prepared as per the Islamic law comes under Halal. Today, there are other ready-to-eat packets of snacks, cosmetics, medicines, and pharmaceutical products which are sold with Halal certification.
Apart from asking for a ban on Halal meat on Diwali, the right-wing organisations have also asked people to refrain from buying festival products, crackers, and other commodities with Halal certification.
Keeping in sight the developments in the state D Rajashekhariah, an economist and director of Institute of Social and Economic Change says:
"I come from a village, and usually in rural areas, meat shop owners themselves close shops on festival days. This is because there are less people who consume non-vegetarian food on that day. That being said, one cannot ask Muslim meat sellers to stop selling Halal meat. It is best left to people to decide."
Members of Hindu Janajagruti Samiti have released a booklet titled 'Halal Jihad' and have questioned why were Halal products are being imposed on Hindus and people of other faiths.
The activists also held protests in front of fast-food chains like McDonalds, Pizza Hut, and Kentucky Fried Chicken and told the reporters, "We have called upon the entire Hindu community to observe Halal-Mukt Diwali. All products with Halal certification must be boycotted and the government must stop meat sales on (Hindu) festival days."
Ban on Halal-Meat Can Incur Huge Losses and Lead to Labour Issues
According to data shared by the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike, there are nearly 3,000 meat stalls in Bengaluru alone. Each of these stalls make around Rs 1 lakh per week, says a mutton seller from Russell Market. However, if the government were to yield to calls made by right-wing groups, then a boycott could lead to losses of around Rs 3 crores, meat sellers of Russell Market said.
Idrees Chaudhary, secretary of Russell Market in Bengaluru told The Quint:
“There are over 200 meat stalls in Russell Market and around five people work in each of these shops. Most of these butchers are daily wages labourers and a boycott such as this will directly affect the livelihood of hundreds. I request the government not to pay heed to these politically motivated issues and instead focus on creating more opportunities to ease business."
Unlike other businesses, the meat industry in Karnataka is not streamlined and there exists a huge mismatch between demand and supply of products. Adding to the arbitrary business model, the meat selling industry continues to be run by Muslims and people of underprivileged castes.
While, meat sellers and butchers are suffering from an uncertain business, right-wing outfits such as Hindu Janajagruti Samiti claims that a parallel economy is being run "to fund anti-national and anti-Hindu activities." Thought the sentiment has failed to resonate with the Hindu community in Karnataka, there are days wherein meat-shop owners are distressed by protests by right-wing groups.
Kishan Gowda, a 32-year-old businessmen based in Bengaluru told The Quint that he is a regular visitor to the meat-shop run by a Muslim and that he had no problem with Halal meat.
“I have been buying mutton from a Muslim meat-seller and we had no problem with Halal meat. I believe the government must ignore these calls and allow people to decided whether they want to buy meat or not.”Kishan Gowda, Businessman
Another demand by the right-wing Hindutva groups is to ban meat on the days of the Hindu festivals. While, most people refrain from eating non-vegetarian meat on the day of the festival, they indulge in extravagant meat-based cuisine the following day. On the day of Hosa Thadaku (Second day of the new year as per the lunar calendar) and on Balipadyami (fourth day after Diwali), several Hindus consume meat as a custom.
In an interaction with The Quint, Aijaz Qureshi, a beef stall owner in Bengaluru said, "There are also other communities which come and buy meat on the day of festivals. Hindus might not consume on the day of the festival, but they do come and buy meat for the next day. I had not faced any issue with my business till today. Now, instead of asking us to close shops, those creating unrest must ask people if they want to eat meat. I am sure they will get their answer."