Jhatka or Halal: A Tale of Two Dinners

Markandey Katju

Markandey Katju

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One can understand Muslims not eating Jhatka or non-halal meat if they were aware it was Jhatka but…

Many people have read Dickens’ famous novel ‘A Tale of Two Cities’.

I would like to relate a tale of two dinners, both of which were held when I was in the Allahabad High Court.

One, which happened when I was a judge in the High Court. A senior judge of the High Court retired, and the judges gave a dinner in his honour.

It was a stag dinner with only the High Court judges attending.

The seating was in order of seniority. But some vegetarian Hindu judges said they would not attend if they were made to sit next to a judge who was served a non vegetarian dish.

Consequently the seating arrangement had to be drastically altered, to accommodate those judges.

Now one can understand a person being a vegetarian. Many people are. Even in America, which I often visit, I found some people who are vegans, which is a step beyond being vegetarian (one told me vociferously the dangers to health of drinking cow milk).

But I never heard of anyone there who said he/she would not sit at dinner beside a person who ate meat. So is it not taking Hinduism to extremes?

The other incident happened when I was a lawyer in the High Court in the 1980s. The High Court Bar Association gave a dinner in honour of a judge who was retiring.

The next day when I was sitting in the High Court Bar library, a Hindu colleague said (perhaps mischievously) that the meat which was served in the previous night’s dinner was Jhatka meat.

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At this one Muslim lawyer who was sitting with us was shocked, and said that in future no Muslim lawyer of the High Court (and there are plenty) would ever attend a dinner given by the Bar Association.

jhatkaWas that not taking Islam to extremes? One can understand Muslims not eating Jhatka or non-halal meat if they were aware it was Jhatka. But why such a hue and cry if they ate it without being aware it was Jhatka or non-halal?

This reveals how backward Indian society still is, and how long will be our road to modernisation. The two incidents mentioned above relate to educated people, not the uneducated. But when even the educated people behave like this, what can be expected of the uneducated masses?

I am an atheist, but I respect all religions, and am a strong supporter of religious freedom. However, I am an equally strong critic of religious extremism, whether Hindu or Muslim.

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That has done great harm to our subcontinent, by spreading religious intolerance and polarising our society on religious lines, thus diverting attention from our real issues like eradication of poverty, malnutrition, unemployment, etc to non issues. Such extremism, instead of declining, has increased in recent times.

How can religious extremism be combated?

That will not be easy, as most people are conservative, and very reluctant to change their backward mindsets.

I submit it can only be done by a long period of patient education of the people by the enlightened minority section of society, as was done in the 17th and 18th centuries by the great thinkers of the European Enlightenment e.g. Bacon, Locke, Hume, Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot, the French Encyclopedists, and many others

Our aim must be to transform our subcontinent into a modern, highly industrialised and prosperous region, where all our people enjoy a high standard of living.

That will require an arduous, long drawn ideological struggle by our patriotic intellectuals to drastically change the present feudal mindsets of our masses, and make them modern i.e. rational and scientific, as was done by the thinkers of the Enlightenment.

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I am confident that our enlightened intellectual patriots will do their duty.


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Markandey Katju

Markandey Katju

Justice Markandey Katju is former Judge, Supreme Court of India and former Chairman, Press Council of India.

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