Explained: The Karnataka halal controversy; the latest developments

Explained: The Karnataka halal controversy; the latest developments

Explained: The Karnataka halal controversy; the latest developments
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By CNBCTV18.com Apr 1, 2022 6:41:02 PM IST (Published)

Hindu religious groups in Karnataka are demanding a ban on halal meat products fresh after the Karnataka HC order dismissing petitions seeking permission to wear hijab inside the classroom.

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

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In an incident captured on CCTV on April 1, at least 10-15 men threatened the staff at a hotel in Karnataka’s Bhadravathi not to serve halal food. The police have arrested five accused.

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

What’s the controversy all about?

The fringe organisations are objecting to halal meat in the context of the Hosathodaku celebrations of the Ugadi festival in Karnataka. Hosathodaku is observed a day after the Ugadi festival and is an integral part of the new lunar year celebrations in the districts of Mysuru, Ramanagara and Mandya of Karnataka. Many Hindus eat meat on this day.

As per Mohan Gowda, state spokesman for Hindu Jana Jagruthi Samiti, the meat sold at Muslim shops is “not pious,” and therefore should not be used for Hosathodaku.

The word ‘halal’ refers to the slaughter and preparation of meat in line with Islamic practices. Muslims slaughter animals or poultry through a single cut to the jugular vein, carotid artery and windpipe with a sharp instrument and the blood is drained from the body. In common practice before any slaughter, the God’s name is invoked, and a one-line blessing called the Tasmiyah, which is reciting of a short blessing beginning with ‘Bismillah’ (in the name of Allah), is done.

This is different from the other method of slaughter commonly referred to as ‘jhatka,’ in which animals are slaughtered by a single strike or ‘jhatka’ to the head, cutting it off from behind.

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

Gowda added that they have no objection if Muslims sold non-halal meat.

How it started

The matter had been brewing for months but the recent controversy started on March 30, when the Hindu Janajagruthi Samiti, the Srirama Sene, the Bajrang Dal and a few other groups issued demands for the removal of halal certification from the signboards of meat shops. According to Sirama Sene founder Pramod Muthalik, the earnings from halal products are used to fund the bail of jailed criminals from terrorist organisations and therefore a boycott is mandated.

BJP General Secretary C.T. Ravi endorsed the call to boycott halal meat sold by Muslims claiming that the halal meat business is “economic jihad.”

"The concept of Halal meat means that they can do business among themselves and consume Halal meat only among their people. What is wrong in pointing it as wrong," C.T. Ravi said, according to a report by NDTV.

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw vs CM Bommai 

Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai assured that his government will look into the matter. He mentioned that serious objections have been raised over the "halal-cut" meat and the government will analyse the issue in its entirety before taking a stand on it.

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

Biopharmaceutical company Biocon Chief Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw has 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 communal exclusion. If the IT industry becomes communal, it would destroy the global leadership we have, she said.  She also urged CM Bommai to resolve this “growing religious divide” in the state.

After her appeal, CM Bommai called for restraint and appealed to all to cooperate in maintaining peace and order.

“Karnataka is known for peace and progress, and everyone should observe restraint… When social issues arise, there is a possibility for us to discuss and resolve it. So before going public, everyone should observe restraint,” Bommai said.

The comments made by the CM triggered a scathing attack from former CM H.D. Kumaraswamy, who accused Bommai of wilfully neglecting the issue.

“They (VHP, Bajrang Dal) are giving representation to tahsildars and moving around with saffron scarves and creating division in society. I dare CM Bommai to take action against them,” Kumaraswamy was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.

Later, he apologised for the uncharacteristic remark and mentioned that “people’s livelihoods” matter to him and that the ruling party is raising such issues as Assembly elections in the state are just a year away. He said he will take out a “padyatra” across the state if the chief minister fails to act on this issue within a month.

Recent controversies in Karnataka

Amid spiralling protests across the state and other parts of the country over the right to wear hijab or head scarf by Muslim women, the Karnataka High Court on March 15 dismissed petitions seeking permission to wear hijab inside the classroom, saying that the headscarf is not part of the essential religious practice in Islam. The HC maintained that the uniform dress 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 by right-wing groups. The temples have said Muslim traders will be banned from setting up stalls during festivals and fairs that are usually held between March and May.

These curbs were justified by the ruling BJP government, citing a rule introduced during the Congress tenure in 2002 that barred non-Hindus from running shops in temple premises.

Stirring another controversy, Bommai’s political secretary and legislator MP Renukacharya demanded that madrassas be banned as they are only creating “anti-national elements.”

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