Karnataka’s halal controversy; The latest developments

Amid the row over the hijab and the call for a ban on non-Hindu stalls in Hindu temples, a new controversy has erupted in Karnataka over halal meat products. Right-wing groups including the Hindu Janajagruthi Samiti, Srirama Sene and Bajrang Dal are demanding a ban on halal products.

In an incident filmed by CCTV on April 1, at least 10-15 men threatened staff at a hotel in Bhadravathi, Karnataka, not to serve halal food. The police arrested five defendants.

In another incident, a chicken shop owner was allegedly assaulted by members of Bajrang Dal in Shivamogga for refusing to sell non-halal meat.

What is the controversy?

Fringe organizations oppose halal meat as part of the Hosathodaku celebrations of the Ugadi festival in Karnataka. Hosathodaku is observed one day after the Ugadi festival and is an integral part of the Lunar New Year celebrations in Mysuru, Ramanagara and Mandya districts of Karnataka. Many Hindus eat meat on this day.

According to Mohan Gowda, spokesperson for Hindu Jana Jagruthi Samiti, meat sold in Muslim shops is “not pious” and therefore should not be used for Hosathodaku.

The word “halal” refers to the slaughtering and preparation of meat in accordance with Islamic practices. Muslims slaughter animals or poultry through a single incision in the jugular vein, carotid artery and trachea with a sharp instrument and the blood is drained from the body. In common practice before any slaughter, the name of God is invoked and a one-line blessing called Tasmiyah, which recites a short blessing beginning with “Bismillah” (in the name of Allah), is performed.

This is different from the other slaughter method commonly known as ‘jhatka,’ where the animals are slaughtered all at once or ‘jhatka’ to the head, cutting it from behind.

Gowda said, “As part of Hosathodaku celebrations, non-vegetarian foods cooked in households are offered to gods and goddesses, but Muslim traders only sell meat after offering it to their god. So it is not suitable for our parties. We have decided to boycott the meat sold by Muslim traders,” as The Times of India reports.

Gowda added that they have no objection to Muslims selling non-halal meat.

The case had been brewing for months, but the recent controversy began on March 30, when the Hindu Janajagruthi Samiti, Srirama Sene, Bajrang Dal and a few other groups called for the removal of halal certification from butcher shops. According to the founder of Sirama Sene, Pramod Muthalik, revenue from halal products is used to finance the release on bail of imprisoned criminals from terrorist organizations and therefore a boycott is mandatory.

BJP General Secretary CT Ravi has endorsed the call for a boycott of halal meat sold by Muslims, saying the halal meat trade is an “economic jihad”.

“The concept of halal meat means they can do business with each other and consume halal meat only among their people. What’s wrong with pointing it as fake,” CT Ravi said, according to a NDTV report.

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw vs CM Bommai

Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai said his government would look into the matter. He mentioned that serious objections have been raised about “halal-cut” meat and that the government will analyze the issue in its entirety before taking a position on it.

He added that there are only wings of growth in government and there is no right wing or left wing as reported by Times of India.

The head of biopharmaceutical company Biocon, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, expressed concern over the recent incidents in Karnataka. She tweeted that Karnataka is known for its inclusive economic development and we must not allow such community exclusion. If the IT industry became communal, it would destroy the global leadership we have, she said. She also urged CM Bommai to address this “growing religious divide” in the state.

After his appeal, CM Bommai appealed for restraint and called on everyone to cooperate in maintaining peace and order.

“Karnataka is known for peace and progress, and everyone should exercise restraint…When social issues arise, we have the opportunity to discuss and resolve them. So before going public, everyone should exercise restraint,” Bommai said.

The CM’s comments sparked a scathing attack from former CM HD Kumaraswamy, who accused Bommai of deliberately overlooking the issue.

“They (VHP, Bajrang Dal) perform tahsildars and walk around with saffron scarves and create division in society. I challenge CM Bommai to take action against them,” Kumaraswamy was quoted as saying by ANI news agency.

He later apologized for the unusual remark and mentioned that “people’s livelihoods” mattered to him and that the ruling party was raising issues such as Assembly elections in the state were not only one year. He said he would withdraw a “padyatra” across the state if the Chief Minister does not act on this issue within a month.

Recent controversies in Karnataka

Amid spiraling protests across the state and other parts of the country against the right to wear the hijab or headscarf for Muslim women, the Karnataka High Court on March 15 dismissed petitions seeking permission to wear the hijab inside the classroom, claiming that the headscarf is not part of the essential religious practice in Islam. The HC argued that the dress uniform rule should be followed in educational institutions where it has been prescribed.

Soon after, Hindu temples in Karnataka banned Muslim merchants from setting up stalls near the temples. Temples in Dakshina Kannada, Udupi Tumkur, Hassan, Chikmagalur and other districts are imposing similar restrictions following demands from right-wing groups. The temples said Muslim traders would not be allowed to set up stalls during festivals and fairs which are usually held between March and May.

These restrictions were justified by the ruling BJP government, citing a rule introduced during the Congress term in 2002 that prohibited non-Hindus from running shops on temple premises.

Sparking further controversy, Bommai’s political secretary and legislator, MP Renukacharya, demanded a ban on madrassas as they only create “anti-national elements”.

(Edited by : Shoma Bhattacharjee)


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