AMIDST a social media campaign by Hindu right-wing groups and Sikh organisations against halal certification for products in the country, the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) has removed the word from its ‘Red Meat Manual’.
The APEDA also clarified that there was no condition on the part of the Indian government regarding halal meat. “It is a requirement by a majority of the importing countries/Importers. Halal Certification agencies are accredited directly by respective importing countries. No government agency has any role in this,” it said.
While the earlier Red Meat Manual of the APEDA, which handles agri-exports under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, said “animals are slaughtered strictly according to halal method to meet the requirement of Islamic countries”, it now says “the animals are slaughtered according to the requirement of importing country/importer”.
It has also deleted these lines: “The animals are slaughtered by halal system under strict vigilance of (a) recognised and registered Islamic body as per the tenets of Islamic Shariyat. The certificate for halal is issued by the representative of registered Islamic body under whose supervision the slaughter is conducted in order to meet the requirement of (the) importing country.”
Sources said the change was made as the use of word halal in the old manual gave the impression that this was mandatory for all meat exports.
Islamic countries allow the import of only halal-certified meat, and India exports buffalo meat to many of these. In 2019-20, India exported Rs 22,668.48 crore worth of buffalo meat, with the chief buyers being Vietnam (Rs 7,569.01 crore), Malaysia (Rs 2,682.78 crore), Egypt (Rs 2,364.89 crore), Indonesia (Rs 1,651.97 crore), Saudi Arabia (Rs 873.56 crore), Hong Kong (Rs 857.26 crore), Myanmar (Rs 669.20 cr) and the UAE (Rs 604.47 cr). Most of the exports to Vietnam and Hong Kong get diverted to China.
Right-wing groups, which had cited the APEDA manual to say the government seemed to be promoting halal meat, called the change “the first step in the right direction”. However, said Harinder Sikka, one of the leading campaigners against halal certification, “This is just one step. We will continue our campaign. Halal meat is haram (unlawful) for us Sikhs.”
Sikh organisations have also approached Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Puri to stop serving halal meat on Air India flights.
Sikka claimed the halal certification had led to loss of jobs for other communities as they were kept out of handling meat by slaughterhouses citing halal requirements.
Calling the business “halalanomics”, the VHP’s Vinod Bansal said, “Halalanomics should be stopped in the country. It has captured the entire economy… Halal certification should be removed from everything,” he said, adding, “If there is halal certification, there should be a jhatka certificate.”