GUWAHATI, APRIL 9: In a shocking incident of hate crime reported from Assam’s Biswanath Charali headquarters of Biswanath district, about 240 km north-east of state capital Guwahati a sexagenarian skull capped bearded man identified Shaukat Ali was thrashed by an agitated mob for allegedly selling cooked beef at his eatery, stopped to go for namaz and forced to consume pork as has been evident in a video circulated in social media on April 7 last.In the video the irate mob, is heard demanding Ali to declare his nationality, asking if he is Bangladeshi or if he has a National Register of Citizen (NRC) certificate.
The victim – Shaukat Ali, who is undergoing treatment in Biswanath Civil Hospital till the report is being filed, told mediapersons that he was thrashed black and blue in the Biswanath Chariali market and was forced to eat pork. “I was badly beaten by the mob for keeping beef in my hotel for sale. I was even stopped from offering namaz and forced to eat pork. I am doing this business for the last 40 years,” Ali said.
While describing the whole incident, Ali said, “Two to three boys came to my hotel in the morning and asked that if I kept beef in the hotel. I replied yes. Later, the mahaldar asked me not to sell beef and continue my hotel in the area.” “At around 3 pm, some youth came to my hotel and destroyed the properties and took away the gas cylinder. They did not stop beating me even when the officer-in-charge tried to stop them,” Ali added.
A case (No. 80/ 2019) unders sections 143, 341, 325, 294(a), 295-A, 153- A(b) and 384 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) has been registered at the Biswanath Police Station. Meanwhile the prime accused identified to be one Dipen Gogoi have been arrested.The search is on to catch the other accused,” informed Biswanath Superintendent of Police, Rakesh Roshan. Five others picked up in this connection were let go after they had signed a good behaviour bond under Section 107 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Pabitra Ram Khound, Biswanath Deputy Commissioner said, “We held meetings with several organisations in relation to the incident. All the organisations condemned the incident. Biswanath is a symbol of the history of communal peace. Steps are being taken to ensure that there is no repetition of such incidents in the state.”
The All Assam Minorities Students’ Union a student body of the minorities on April 9th, has dashed off a letter to Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal demanding stern action and judicial inquiry against the culprits behind the assault on Ali.
The family members of the victim admitted that the eatery has had beef on the menu for decades while letting customers bring home-cooked meat too. “No one told us we could not sell beef. They could have served a notice instead of attacking my brother, and could have taken action officially if we did not comply,” said, victim’s brother adding that the mob mostly comprised people from adjoining areas.It is pertinent to be mentioned that none of the sections ofthe Cattle Preservation Act of Assam, 1950 criminalizes possession or consumption of beef. The Act merely lays down the conditions under which a cattle can/can’t be slaughtered. The fact that cow poltics have started in a secular and multi-diverse state like Assam has been gravely concerned the minority population. Beef is openly traded and consumed in Assam by more than 10 non-Muslim communities including Christians.
Cow vigilantism has become a key point of debate in the last five years under the Bharatiya Janata Party’s rule in the country. The last tenure of the Modi government has seen a spate of mob attacks across India.Since the BJP formed the government in 2014, a total of 122 incidents of cow-related violence took place in India till 2019. According to indiaspend.com (a data journalism site), 86 per cent of those people died in cow-related violence since 2010 are Muslim and 97 per cent of the attacks took place after 2014.
The leader of the Opposition in Assam Legislative Assembly Debabrata Saikia has condemned the incident of thrashing Shaukat Ali for selling beef and forcing him to eat pork. He demanded immediate intervention of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) over the incident.
“I would like to draw your attention to a distressing incident wherein a man was severely assaulted and his property ransacked by some vigilantes few days back in the Biswanath Chariali town of Biwanath district of Assam, simply because he was serving beef in his restaurant. The victim, Shaukat Ali, has had to be admitted to hospital due to severe injuries. Incidentally, there is no blanket ban on beef in Assam, and the victim has been running his restaurant for four decades. Although a case has been registered in this connection, none of the culprits has been detained so far,” Saikia said in his letter sent to the NHRC on Tuesday.
“Ali was beaten up by the hooligans in front of a police official. This sort of mob rule is a blot on our nation’s secular and democratic ethos and, if left unchecked, will imperil peaceful coexistence among various communities in Assam and the country as a whole. I would, therefore, like to request you kindly to take cognisance of the incident and initiate appropriate action to have the culprits brought to book according to the law of the land, and also ensure that this type of anarchic behaviour by fanatics does not recur,” he added.
Meanwhile,Sailen Kumar Sharma,President of Human Rights Forum,Tangla a NGO based in Udalguri district of Assam have strongly condemned the entire episode and appealed the government to ensure that guilty be punished as per provisions of law. The NGO have further demanded a high level judicial inquiry into the matter and exhorted all the sections of the society to maintain tranquility and keep faith in the judiciary.
Shajid Khan is an Independent journalist,human right activist and a law student of Gauhati University based in Assam and can be reached at email@example.com