In what may be described as an attempt to instigate communalism, a female reporter from Sudarshan TV grilled a Haldiram’s staff member over the “Urdu” description on the brand’s namkeen packet.
In the viral video on Twitter, the news reporter, Shivani Thakur, can be seen trying to extract an aggressive response from the store manager of a Haldiram’s outlet, repeatedly asking why the description is in Urdu and insinuating that it is meant to mislead Hindus observing Navratras. In doing so, she betrays not just a callous communal stance, but also sheer lack of basic information that a journalist must have at command.
The incident can be seen as yet another attempt to gain publicity by communal media at a time when the nation is alredy seething under controversies around halal meat, the Azaan and the hijab.
The snack in question is the ‘Falhari Mixture’ and has been one of the most popular ‘fasting’ mixtures (used during days of fasting) of the brand. It is a sweet and salty mix of peanuts and potatoes with mild spices. As per the video, the description at the back of the namkeen is written in Urdu while the main text on the front is in English. Incidentally, the packaging clearly displays the green vegetarian symbol. Sources say that the description at the back of the packet is actually in Arabic, and caters to the company’s export requirements, as this particular mixture is exported to the Middle East.
The video surfaced on Twitter only after a Hindi news channel shared the clip. It has now gone viral on social media and has raised a communal debate. In the video, the reporter Shivani Thakur aggressively heckles the manager, who is also a woman, that why the description on Haldiram’s packet is written in Urdu and asks, if by doing so, is Haldiram’s trying to hide something? A crowd of people and a police officer can be seen witnessing the confrontation.
Replying to the question, the manager says that the food inside the packet is not a health hazard, and then she firmly, but politely, asks the reporter to leave the store. She says, “If you want to have this you can have it, if you don’t want to have it, you can just keep this here and go from my outlet.”
“You can do whatever ma’am, Haldiram’s will not entertain such tantrums,” the store manager tells the reporter firmly, while the latter continues to rant about “Urdu writing” and “betraying Hindus who fast during Navratri”. The manager has won appreciation from netizens for dealing with the reporter in such a firm and balanced way.
Shivani Thakur works for Sudarshan TV, widely believed to be a far-right broadcaster. In the past the channel has been censured by the Supreme Court for its Islamophobic content. This particularly vicious instance of instigating communal tensions is just another example of the various irresponsible stances and shows that this channel has hosted.
Sharad Aggarwal, Director (Calcutta region), Haldiram’s told ETimes, “First of all, it is not even Urdu. We have written it in Arabic language as our products are exported in several countries like Dubai, Italy, Spain and France. Also, it is a mandate from every country to use their local language in the product description and this is the reason why we use various languages in our products.”
The viral video has garnered 2.8 million views, 5190 retweets, and 19.6k likes till now and left the netizens with divided opinions. While some of them find it ok and normal, others are inquisitive to know why the company printed the description of the packet in the Urdu language.
Several political organizations like the Indian Youth Congress also reacted by slamming the reporter for trying to spread communal violence. “The Sudarshan News reporter spreading hateful poison in front of police, police remained mute spectator…” (SIC-as translated from Hindi)
A Twitter user wrote, “Haldiram using URDU print on its packet of Falhari Mixture – are they serving Halal Food to “H”?”. While another tweet reads, “This is Bikaji bhujia… In place of Hindi…. Urdu language is written…. How much % of Indian know Urdu….. Hindi is our national language…. They why Urdu is written.”