CHENNAI: In an attempt to bring the Muslim factor back into political circulation, the Uttar Pradesh government has banned products with a halal tag, with immediate effect. The move is seen as another dice-throw by the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) in India’s highly populated state to consolidate the Hindu vote bank ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha election.
The UP government order made public on Saturday, November 18, 2023, says, “Halal certification of food products is a parallel system which creates confusion regarding the quality of food items and is not tenable under Section 89 of the Food Law Food Safety and Standards Act.”
“The right to decide the quality of food items lies only with the authorities and institutions given in Section 29 of the said Act, who check the relevant standards as per the provisions of the Act”, the government order added.
The move comes after a police case was filed against a company and a few other organizations for allegedly “exploiting people’s religious sentiments” to boost sales by providing “forged” halal certificates.
The complainant raised concerns over a large-scale conspiracy, indicating attempts to allegedly decrease the sale of products from companies lacking the halal certificate, which is illegal, the UP government said.
The case has been registered against Halal India Private Limited Chennai, Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind Halal Trust Delhi, Halal Council of India Mumbai, Jamiat Ulama Maharashtra, and others.
“These companies allegedly issued forged halal certificates to various companies for financial gains, fostering not only social animosity but also violating public trust,” the G.O. said.
Responding to the UP government to ban Halal-Certified Products, Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind Halal Trust, in a statement, termed the allegations as “baseless” and said it will take “necessary legal measures to counter such misinformation”.
What is Halal certification?
Halal is an Arabic word that means permissible — as opposed to ‘haram’. Halal-certified products are those that have apparently met the requirements of Islamic law and are suitable for the consumption of Muslims.
Halal certification is a guarantee that the food is prepared in accordance with Islamic law and is unadulterated. If a product contains animals or animal byproducts that are considered prohibited under Islamic law, then it cannot receive a halal certification.
Specifically, halal foods are those that are made, produced, manufactured, processed, and stored using machinery, equipment, and/or utensils that have been cleaned according to Islamic law and are free from any component that Muslims are prohibited from eating.
Halal meat meant the meat which has been procured through the process permitted in Islam. The animal has to be slaughtered through the throat, esophagus, and jugular veins but not the spinal cord — as opposed to the jhatka method of slaughtering an animal where the neck gets the blow.
Halal certification is not limited to meat, even some cosmetics have halal certification to denote that they don’t contain any ‘haram’ products like alcohol, pig fat, etc.
India’s commerce ministry issued a draft guideline early this year on halal certification. The National Accreditation Board for Certification Bodies (NABCB), and the Quality Council of India have given approval for Halal certificates.
The UP government’s move has come with an eye on the 2024 general election to consolidate the Hindu vote bank. The Hindutva elements have been making the noise about the halal certification ban for a long time. It was part of their agenda along with checking love jihad and anti-conversion activities.
This move by the UP government can also be seen as a ploy to control the dietary habits of the Muslims which is anti-constitution. Certainly, this order will be contested in the courts but by the time, any relief comes through, much water may have flown under the bridge of river Gomti.