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Making the cut: New Delhi orders restaurants to show slaughter style or lose license

NEW DELHI: Officials from the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) said on Saturday that restaurants in the district risk losing their licenses if they do not display the slaughter method used for the animal meat served in their restaurants, even when commenters said the move was akin to “communalizing food.”

“Under the new rule, when restaurants acquire a license, they will have to write down what meat they will sell: halal or jhatka. We will cancel the license of restaurants that do not display the label, ”Rajdutt Gahlot, permanent president of SDMC, told Arab News on Saturday.

It follows an order passed by the SDMC controlled by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the third week of January this year, asking restaurants to label how the meat was slaughtered.

In the halal or Islamic way of slaughter, animals are slaughtered by cutting the jugular vein, carotid artery, and trachea, to ensure that all blood is drained from the carcass.

In contrast, in the jhatka style of slaughter, the animal is killed instantly after its head is cut off with a single blow.

Gahlot said that a clear labeling of the slaughter technique was needed for non-halal meat eaters “who will not visit restaurants that sell this type of meat.”

“(In the same way), people looking for halal meat will not visit the jhatka meat outlets and in this way avoid crowds in restaurants,” he said.

The draft resolution approved on December 24 by the SDMC stated: “According to Hinduism and Sikhism, eating halal meat is prohibited and is contrary to religion … Therefore, the committee resolves that restaurants and butchers must write mandatorily on meat sold and served by them … if there is halal or jhatka meat available there. “

Gahlot confirmed to Arab News that the resolution “has been passed,” but declined to comment on the matter.

In August last year, the BJP-controlled East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) also approved a similar order, with media reports suggesting that North Delhi could follow suit soon. New Delhi is divided into four zones.

There are more than 2,000 restaurants in SDMC’s upscale area serving nearly 3 million people. More than 80 percent of restaurants sell halal meat as the majority of those involved in the meat trade are from the Muslim community.

The National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) had initially resisted the decision to enforce the order.

However, he said he does not “foresee significant changes in the consumption pattern of customers.”

“Consumers now have the right to ask what kind of meat is served in a restaurant, and every restaurateur is obliged to answer this question. The consumer decides accordingly, ”said Neha Grover, NRAI’s marketing and communication manager.

“However, if there are significant changes in consumer demand, restaurants will adapt to it as they do with any other consumer preference, subject to the availability of what consumers are looking for,” he added.

Restaurant owners in New Delhi, however, said they were “intrigued” by the SDMC move, especially since “people don’t care whether they are eating halal or jhatka meat.”

“My customers hardly ask me if the meat I sell is halal or jhatka,” said Rajeev Kapoor of popular South Delhi restaurant Rajendra Da Dhaba, adding that “he won’t mind showing the label if it helps the customer.”

“The main concern of most customers is the hygiene and the freshness of the meat. Even if not, we sell halal meat in our shop, as most of the suppliers are Muslim, ”he said.

Alam Mahe, who runs a store in South Delhi, agrees, saying that while he “had no problem with the order,” his main concern was “to recover from the losses suffered during the pandemic-induced shutdown.”

On the other hand, Muslim meat traders said they were “concerned” about the move.

“What is the need for such an order? Customers hardly ask about the meat’s label. I hope that this problem does not become another reason for division in society, ”said Fahim Ansari, a meat trader in the Jamia Nagar area of ​​Delhi.

Since the BJP took power in Delhi in 2014, it has imposed a ban on beef. Cow slaughter, a sacred animal for most Hindus, is prohibited and the consumption of beef is restricted in most states of India.

There have been cases of lynchings and dozens of people, mostly Muslims, have been killed after being accused of eating beef or slaughtering cows. Some BJP-controlled state governments have also cracked down on the meat trade.

Commenting on the latest directive from the SDMC, the Indian Express, a leading English newspaper in the country, questioned the BJP’s motive for passing a “dividing order.”

“The motive seems to be to pit people involved in the animal trade against each other. By rating the food served according to the religion of those who provide it, the BJP-controlled SDMC is trying to communalize the food, ”he said.

The former head of the Delhi Minority Commission, Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan, agreed and called the move a “war against Muslims” and an attempt to economically “marginalize” Muslims.

“The decision of the BJP-controlled Delhi Municipal Corporation is part of an economic war against Muslims,” ​​he told Arab News. “The BJP began severe restrictions on the meat business shortly after it came to power in 2014. The fur business, also controlled by Muslims, is almost bankrupt.”

Khan added that “writing halal on the signs of butcher shops and restaurants will mean that many Hindus and Sikhs will not deal with such shops. It is possible that it will soon be repeated in other states controlled by the BJP ”.

The idea, he said, is to “marginalize and impoverish Muslims” who traditionally control most of the meat business in the country.

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