Rajat Sharma
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On November 18, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s Uttar Pradesh government imposed a ban on the manufacture, storage, distribution and sale of all Halal-certified products (except those meant for exports) with immediate effect. A notification issued by the Food Safety and Drugs Administration department said halal certification was being shown on the labels for all dairy products, sugar, bakery products, peppermint oil, mixtures, ready-to-eat savouries and edible oil. “This halal certification is a parallel system which is causing confusion about the quality of food products and it goes against the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 which ensures food products are safe for human consumption”, the notification said.  The department said FSSAI (Food Safety Standards Authority of India) was created to ensure the quality of food products. Therefore, in the exercise of powers under the Act, and in the interest of “public health”, the state Food Safety and Drugs Commissioner imposed a ban on the use of ‘halal-certification’ labels on all food products made and sold in Uttar Pradesh. Following this, raids were carried out across UP by food inspectors to seize all food products showing ‘halal certification’ labels. 

Union Rural Development Minister Giriraj Singh on Thursday wrote a letter to Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar seeking a similar ban in his state. He urged a probe into this trade practice and alleged that this was “Islamization of food products”.  Singh said, the practice of issuing ‘halal certification’ has reached a turnover of nearly Rs one lakh crore, and this money was being misused to fund anti-national activities.  Though Nitish Kumar did not react, but Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav rejected the demand and alleged that BJP is trying to fan religious sentiments between Hindus and Muslims. Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, while addressing an election rally in Hyderabad, said, politics of appeasement must end and there should be a ban on halal certification, triple talaq and polygamy. In Maharashtra, state BJP chief Chandrashekhar Bawankule said, the BJP-NCP-Shiv Sena (Shinde) government will soon take a decision to ban halal certification of food products in the state,. He also appealed to people to boycott food products that display halal certification label. 

Muslim organizations are strongly opposing the move to ban halal certification. In Mumbai Raza Academy chief Maulana Khalilur Rahman Noorie described Yogi Adityanath as a “terrorist” and alleged that BJP resorts to such tactics to gain electoral dividends. The Maulana said, government has nothing to do with the food preferences of people. Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena leader Sandeep Deshpande said, his party will not tolerate market monopoly in the name of halal certification. Congress and Trinamool Congress have opposed the demand for ban. Congress leader Hussain Dalwai alleged that BJP leaders were trying to divide society in order to win elections. Dalwai said, the consumption of halal-certified food products is not compulsory and it is a matter of choice. TMC leader Majid Memon said, halal-certified food products are not meant for non-Muslims and it was up to them whether to buy those products or not. “There is no need for a ban”, Memon said. The fact is: in India, halal certificates are issued by Halal India Pvt Ltd and Jamiat-Ulama-e-Hind Halal Trust. Unlike Gulf countries, India does not have an official regulator to issue Halal certificates. Halal certificate was first issued in 1974 for all slaughtered meat in India, and later this certificate was issued for other food products too. All food products carrying halal-certified label are accepted in Gulf countries. 

After Yogi initiated the move to ban halal certification, other states are also going to demand a similar ban and it can cause problems for their chief ministers. Bihar CM Nitish Kumar may face a huge problem because Muslims use only halal-certified food products. Nitish Kumar and Tejashwi cannot take the risk to impose ban on such certification and face anger from Muslim voters. Clearly, Giriraj Singh is trying to make it a big political issue in Bihar with the Lok Sabha elections due next year. Giriraj Singh is going to ask why vegetarian food products need halal certification. He will also be asking about where the funds collected in the name of halal certification go. It would be difficult for Nitish Kumar to give a reasonable answer. In Maharashtra, the issue is not so big. Raj Thackeray’s MNS has been demanding ban since the last several years. It is Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray who may face a problem. He is part of the Maha Aghadi alliance with Congress and NCP (Sharad Pawar). Uddhav Thackeray will have to take a stand on this issue.

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