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Why Jhatka lost to Halal, even in India: Understanding the challenges and the way ahead

This appears an uneven fight where other side is stronger? What can an ordinary person do?

The Halal controversy, that started in Karnataka, has ended up sparking a raging debate in the rest of the country. A week ago, Hindu Janajagruti Samiti launched an agitation against Halal meat and calls to boycott Halal products were made.

Hindu Janajagruti Samiti Karnataka spokesperson had released a video asserting that thousands of crores of rupees are being collected over certifying meat as Halal, which it claimed would pave the way for India to become an Islamic state. Gowda argued that this money is used to fund anti-national conspiracies in the whole of India against the state. “We urge all Hindus to boycott Halal meat, Halal products and use the Jhatka meet which employs the Hindu way of slaughtering. Let us participate in the economic boycott of such antinational activities,” Mohan Gowda urged in the video released by a handle on Twitter.

As the Halal vs Jhatka meat controversy rages on and turns into a national debate, it becomes essential to understand what is Halal, what is Jhatka and why even in India, Halal has reigned supreme. It is also becoming imperative to understand what challenges India faces in developing a market for Jhatka meat, that would benefit the non-Muslims of the country.

What is Halal meat and ‘Halal’ certification for vegetarian products

Halal is a method of slaughter and packaging of meat that is in tune with Islamic sensibilities and religious practices. Halal can only be performed by a Muslim man. Thus, non-Muslims are automatically denied employment at a Halal firm. There are certain other conditions that must be fulfilled that makes it quite clear that it is intrinsically an Islamic practice. Guidelines are available on the official website of a certification authority of Halal in India which makes it clear that non-Muslim employees cannot be employed in any part of the slaughtering process.

The Department of Halal Certification of the European Union says,  “The name of Allah must be invoked (mentioned) at the time of slaughtering by saying: Bismillah Allahu Akbar. (In the Name of Allah; Allah is the Greatest.) If at the time of slaughtering the name of anyone else other than Allah is invoked (i.e. animal sacrificed for him/her), then the meat becomes Haram “unlawful.””

The Halal certification department also specifies the exact Islamic method of slaughtering. It says that the slaughtering of the animal must be done in just one stroke without lifting the knife, using a sharp knife. It says that the windpipe (throat), food-tract (oesophagus) and the two jugular veins must be cut in a single stroke. Care must be taken that the head is not severed and the spinal cord is not cut. The rules also say that meat slaughtered by a machine can’t be Halal, it must be slaughtered by a Muslim person.

It is pertinent to note that the Halal process is not just limited to the slaughter, but also to packaging, shipping etc. Therefore, throughout the chain, if the meat is Halal, only Muslims would be employed and the name of Allah would be invoked to make it in line with Islamic practices.

Halal certification is also granted for vegetarian products and not just meat. Products like flour, wheat etc are also seen with Halal certification. Halal India, the certification authority in this particular instance, states that processed food is considered Halal if it is not contaminated by ingredients that are considered ‘najis’ as per Sharia Law. Furthermore, the equipment used for its production should not be contaminated with ‘najis’ either. ‘Najis’, as per Sharia law, are substances that make a product ritually unclean. Substances such as alcohol, dogs, swine, and milk of animals Muslims are not permitted to drink and other such things are considered ‘Najis’.

What is Jhatka meat?

Simply put, Jhatka, as the word suggests, means “swift”. In the Jhatka method of slaughter, the animal is killed instantaneously without the animal suffering like it does in the Halal process of slaughter. In Jhatka, the head of the animal is immediately severed and therefore, it is not bled to death slowly. Another key difference between Halal and Jhatka is that Jhatka has no religious process that it follows and therefore, can be consumed by everyone regardless of religious affiliations.

The underlying idea of Jhatka is to kill the animal with minimum torture to it.

How is Halal discriminatory? Hindus not employed, Sikhs not allowed to consume Halal

Halal is inherently discriminatory in several ways. It is most important to note that in the meat industry, if a company is to product Halal certified meat, they cannot hire non-Muslims to slaughter the animal. Given that several marginalised Hindus work in the meat industry, the mere condition that only Muslims can slaughter the animal becomes discriminatory towards Hindus involved in the industry.

Further, it enforces the Islamic tenets on non-Muslims. A non-Muslim – a Hindu or Sikh for example – is forced to consume meat processed after invoking the name of Allah. This stands against the rights of non-Muslims who are forced to conform to the religious tenets of Islam, which they do not follow.

Further, Sikhs specifically do not consume Halal meat as a part of their religious beliefs.

Sikhs call the Halal process “kuttha”, which means meat obtained after killing the animal in a slow, painful process.

The Sikh encyclopaedia says:

Historically, there is no positive injunction enforcing jhatka mode of slaughter laid down by the Gurus. However, Guru Gobind Singh, when manifesting the order of the Khalsa in 1699, enjoined Sikhs to abstain from kuttha or Halal meal introduced by the Muslim ruling class. That many high ranking Hindus had succumbed to the practice of eating kuttha is evidenced by a verse of Guru Nanak`s in Asa Ki Var: “They eat kuttha of goats killed with the pronouncement of alien words, i.e. kalima, but do not allow anyone to enter their cooking square (to guard against pollution by touch)…”Instructions regarding jhatka mode of slaughter are contained in various Rahitndmas or codes of conduct for the Sikhs, and the Sikh chronicles written during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

They all affirm that Guru Gobind Singh made the taking of kuttha one of the four major kurahits, or violations of the Sikh code of conduct. However, two of these sources say positively: “Kill the male goal in the jhatka way if you want to eat, but do not ever look at any other type of meat” {Rahitnama of Bhai Desa Singh,), and “Slaughter male goats through jhatka and cat; do not go near carrion or kuttha” (Ratan Singh Bharigu, Prdchm Panth Prakash). Rahitnama of Bhai Desa Singh also enjoins the slaughtering to be carried out away from the kitchen. Traditionally, it is also to be away from a holy spot.

Therefore, Halal becomes discriminatory to not just Hindus but Sikhs and other non-Muslim sects as well.

What about the facetious questions posed to Hindus demanding Jhatka?

Hindus and Sikhs, especially Hindus, didn’t insist on Jhatka meat because religiosity and awareness is low among Hindus.

First of all, it is essential to remember that there is a very regulated and strict procedure described for animal slaughter in Hinduism, followed by Shakta sampradayas. Pashubali is one of those essential religious practises by certain sampradayas in Hinduism and it is also one of the arguments used against those who talk about the cruelty met out to animals during the Halal process of slaughter. The standard question that is thrown around is – “Hindus slaughter animals during Pashubali too. So are Hindus and Sikhs against Halal because they are Islamophobic?”

To answer this question, it is essential to realise that both theologically and in practice, the Islamic method of slaughter is barbaric which is not the case in Pashubali. The theological concept of Pashubali lies on the basis that it is performed to please the Deity and under the command of the Deity Herself therefore, the slaughter is done in a manner that the animal’s suffering is minimised.

Besides the question of Pashubali, Hindus are often asked, ‘in which shastra it’s written that only jhatka should be eaten, every time the Halal vs Jhatka debate is resurrected.

These are facetious arguments that Hindus and Sikhs must not necessarily take seriously. These questions stem from Abrahamic lenses where something has to be specifically allowed or disallowed in religious texts. Hinduism is not based on one book and the “One Prophet, One God” concept therefore, there are several things that are traditionally essential to Hinduism, not necessarily mentioned in the texts. For example, Circumcision is not specifically disallowed in any Hindu scripture. Does that mean all Hindus would go and get circumcised simply because it is not disallowed?

Hinduism does not have the concept of “haraam” but that also does not mean that Hindus must be forced to adhere to tenets of a religion they don’t follow. Just because our texts do not forbid Hijab, does not mean that Hindus must be forced to wear it. Similarly, even if Halal is specifically not disallowed in Hinduism, it does not mean that Hindus should be forced to submit to Islamic tenets.

Did Halal certification market develop only because Muslims insist on Halal?

Broadly yes, but a big factor are exports. For any business practice to become institutionalized, it needs to be undertaken on an industrial level. Industrial-scale kicks in the export of meat. Exports can’t happen with a bunch of local shops coming together. It requires a grand scale and it develops its own systems. Large abattoirs were set up for export purposes. Many of the countries where Indian meat companies export business want Halal certificates because those are Muslim countries, and this led to many big companies getting a Halal certificate. The entire business supply chain over the decades went on to ‘normalize’ and ‘standardize’ Halal certification. This meant that only Muslim butchers can be hired in such abattoirs because that is one of the conditions of getting a Halal certificate.

So there can’t be a Jhatka certification unless we are exporting jhatka meat?

Not really. The moot issue is the ‘industrial scale of business’. If there is a sudden spike in the demand for Jhatka meat and where Hindu and Sikh consumers insist on Jhatka meat, the companies would happily oblige and go for Jhatka certification too. There are some very small outfits already in the Jhatka certification system but some big organization needs to champion this cause of supply of such certification once the demand is there.

Jhatka Certification Authority, for example, led by Ravi Ranjan Singh, is one such Jhatka certification authority that is trying to break the Halal juggernaut.

Understood. It’s demand and supply. So all that is needed is that demand for Jhatka rises?

Wish it was so simple. While demand by Hindus and Sikhs will surely push the companies to change, there will be big resistance from the companies themselves because institutionalized systems and processes have internalized the Halal process. It will mean setting up special abattoirs where slaughter takes place as per Jhatka rules. That means investment in infrastructure and manpower. Companies might as well give money to some media houses to brand demand for Jhatka as ‘bigotry’ instead of spending money on creating this infrastructure and supply chain.

But why do we need Jhatka? It’s just a certificate. Let’s eat Halal only. What’s the harm?

Well, there are several aspects pertaining to Halal that make it problematic and something that non-Muslims need to develop an alternate system to. First and foremost, Halal is extremely discriminatory. As explained early in the article, Halal is not just discriminatory to Hindus, given that they only hire Muslims, it is also discriminatory to Sikhs since religiously, Sikhs consume Jhatka meat only.

Further, most businesses have started serving only halal meat now to save the cost of maintaining 2 supply chains, for halal and non-halal meat. Therefore, it is discriminatory to those who do not wish to consume Halal at all. Going to eateries means them having to submit themselves to the choice made for them by the Islamist lobby.

Apart from the discriminatory nature of Halal, there are certain other issues as well.

As we can see with the case of Himalaya, halal economy is not just restricted to meat products now. Pharmaceutical products, personal care products, cosmetics, and even flour, all come with halal certification now. With its ever-growing scope, it is creating the grounds for restricting the job prospects in these sectors to people from only one religion. Further, this parallel system of certification runs without any checks and balances from the government. 

Further, an organization like Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind (JUH), one of the oldest halal certifying trusts in India, is constantly in the news for their legal support to the accused in terror-related cases. Therefore, there is enough antecedent proving that the money from the Halal economy is being used to further terrorist activity in the name of Islam.

This appears an uneven fight where other side is stronger? What can an ordinary person do?

Create awareness. Insist on Jhatka whether buying meat online or having cooked food from any restaurant. Let them know that demand is growing. Support local jhatka sellers, many still exist. Encourage and help them to be on online apps. Ask these apps delivering daily needs to create a jhatka category, at least for meat to start with.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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OpIndia Staff
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