Aavin Managing Director N Subbaiyan said that the controversy revealed the “ignorance” and “shallow mindset” of some people.
“Tamil Nadu’s Aavin has come up with Halal certification for its butter.” The statement may appear straightforward, but what follows it in social media posts — especially on WhatsApp — spread across Tamil Nadu has raked up a controversy.
The post, from right-wing corners of social media, goes on to claim “they are trying to propagate their religion” at every opportunity, but does not name a community.
It then targets DMK leader SM Naser, claiming one wondered what the dairy minister had done.
“Since it’s a public cooperative, many households and even temples buy Aavin’s milk, butter, ghee, etc., which is offered to God. How can it now be offered to God?” the post asked.
Aavin — a cooperative under the ownership of the Tamil Nadu Cooperative Milk Producers Federation Limited — “has been associated with one religion now”, claimed the post.
“Any conscious Hindu should not buy Aavin’s Halal dairy products. Let’s show unity and teach a lesson to those who are trying to divide the country,” it concluded.
The Halal certification is an internationally recognised certificate necessary to get trade permission in at least 117 countries.
Several right-wing social media accounts and BJP functionaries also posted a picture of the packaging of Aavin’s butter product, which featured the words “Halal Certified”.
Why Aavin needs a Halal Certificate ? What is this new practise ? Funding Jihadi elements smartly ? pic.twitter.com/wBtlk3hFSu
— Nambi Narayanan (@NarananNambi) September 16, 2022
The Twitter handle of Indu Makkal Katchi, a repeat offender when it comes to spreading misinformation and fake news, captioned the image: “Incredible… Halal on cooking butter” [sic].
Incredible…. Halal on cooking butter…. pic.twitter.com/CcWMYE6Xvl
— Indu Makkal Katchi (Offl) ?? (@Indumakalktchi) September 17, 2022
Similarly, the Tamil Nadu BJP’s IT Wing chief Nirmal Kumar — another known offender — tweeted: “Avadi Naser is using government machinery to propagate bigotry. Is that okay @CMOTamilnadu? [sic]”
These are hardly the first such messages or posts regarding Aavin’s Halal certification.
In May 2020, similar posts surfaced on social media when the previous AIADMK government was in power.
Interestingly, the same “Indu Makkal Katchi” Twitter handle tweeted about it back then.
Aavin is Halal..? pic.twitter.com/lPde4ZTX2h
— Indu Makkal Katchi (Offl) ?? (@Indumakalktchi) May 15, 2020
Aavin Managing Director N Subbaiyan told South First that the controversy revealed the “ignorance” and “shallow mindset” of some people.
“Just like the ISO mark, the Halal certification is necessary for the export of products. It is a well-known process internationally. It is just to increase the acceptance level of the product. Only if it is Halal certified is it promoted among consumers in over 100 countries,” he explained.
Subbaiyan also highlighted that the Halal certification was done only for those products meant for international export and not for the ones used for local consumption.
As a matter of fact, the official Aavin Twitter handle shows the butter with a different kind of certification.
— Aavin TN (@AavinTN) September 14, 2022
Though the social media posts claimed that Aavin lost its secular credentials under the DMK government, it is important to note that the Aavin unit, according to officials, got the Halal certification in 2017, when the previous AIADMK government was in power.
Moreover, several brands such as Amul, a popular dairy state government cooperative based out of Gujarat, and the dairy products of Yoga guru Ramdev’s Patanjali are also Halal-certified.
The Tamil Nadu Milk Agents and Workers Welfare Association has slammed the attempts by “anti-social elements” to spread misinformation about Aavin products and “disrupt peace” in the state.
In a statement issued by SA Ponnusamy, president of the welfare association, the group urged the state government to use an “iron hand” to deal with those who are spreading rumours about Aavin products.
Ponnusamy told South First that he had informed top police officers and the Aavin management about the communal campaign being carried out by certain individuals.
“An official complaint in this regard can be given only by Aavin. Those who are putting out these posts say that it was the DMK government that introduced halal certification for the products. But that’s not true. It started during the AIADMK government’s time. The government should take strict action against those people trying to cause trouble,” he added.