The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority on Monday removed the word “halal” from a red meat manual which specifies the contours of meat export amid allegations by right-wing Hindutva groups that it gives Muslim exporters an unfair business advantage, the Hindustan Times reported.
Halal is meat and poultry killed in accordance with Quranic guidelines derived from the teachings of Prophet Muhammad. Meat slaughtered in this particular way is labelled as “halal-certified” as several Islamic countries only import that. India exports buffalo meat to many of these countries.
The government body, which functions under the commerce ministry, said in the revised manual: “The animals are slaughtered to the requirement of importing country/importer.”
In the older version, it read: “The animals are slaughtered strictly according to ‘halal’ method to meet the requirement of Islamic countries.”
The APEDA clarified that there was no condition imposed by the Indian government regarding halal meat, according to The Indian Express. “It is a requirement by a majority of the importing countries/importers,” it said. “Halal certification agencies are accredited directly by respective importing countries. No government agency has any role in this.”
Right-wing groups have been against against halal certification for products in the country. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad is among those who have been vocal in their criticism.
Meanwhile, another group known as the Halal Niyantran Manch or Halal Regulation Forum took credit after the APEDA decided to update its manual, containing elaborate information on various government regulations for export of meat.
“The Congress government had forced APEDA to come out with an order that all manufacturers or exporters of meat will have to compulsorily register with APEDA, and buy and acquire only halal-certified meat,” HNM spokesperson Harinder S Sikka said. “As a result, Hindus, Sikhs, SC and STs [Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes] all went out of business, which is roughly 40 million-plus people. The government’s reasoning then was that meat is primarily exported to the Middle East, where the requirement is halal meat. However, this is not the truth.”
Sikka also said that India’s biggest meat market is China and it does not require or give a halal certification, adding that other countries such as Sri Lanka have banned this practice too.
Bharatiya Janata Party’s national spokesperson RP Singh welcomed the export body’s move to amend the manual.
In December, the BJP-led South Delhi Municipal Corporation had cleared a proposal that made it mandatory for restaurants and meat shops in its jurisdiction to prominently display whether the meat they are serving is halal or jhatka – meat from an animal slaughtered in one go.
It stated that consuming halal food was “forbidden and against the religion” in Sikhism and Hinduism. Several Sikh organisations have also approached Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Puri to stop serving halal meat on Air India flights. They claim it has led to loss of livelihood for members of others communities as they are kept out of handling meat by slaughterhouses, citing halal requirements.