This is the second beef-related incident reported from Assam after the BJP-led coalition formed a government in the state in May 2016.
Guwahati: A Muslim man was abused and heckled by a mob for allegedly selling beef in Assam's Biswanath district on Sunday. Reports suggest the police have detained at least five people after a viral video showed the man on his knees in deep slush, begging to let him go.
Shaukat Ali, 68, was beaten on the road and forced to eat pork as punishment by locals, say sources. He is currently being treated at a government hospital.
In a video doing the rounds on social media, Ali is seen kneeling down in slush, surrounded by an irate mob, which demands to know why he was selling beef. “Do you have a license to sell beef?” the mob can be heard asking in the video.
The mob, while threatening Shaukat Ali, asked him whether he was from Bangladesh. "Are you Bangladeshi? Is your name in the NRC (National Register of Citizens)?" someone in the mob can be heard asking him.
The mob allegedly also forced Ali to consume pork and asked him if the market’s mahaldar, or manager, knew that he was selling beef. According to the district police, the mob then went on to misbehave with the mahaldar, Kamal Thapa, as well.
According to district police, two separate First Information Reports (FIR) have been filed and one of them is by Shaukat Ali's brother. The police have started an investigation and are on the lookout for the men seen in the video, say sources.
Ali, according to his family, ran a small eatery selling rice and meat twice a week, on Sundays and Thursdays. The other days of the week, he sold ittar, veils and religious texts.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Ali’s younger brother, Abdul Rehman, a teacher at a local government school, said: “For over 50 years now, my family has been running this rice-and-meat shop… There are four such eateries in the area, all catering to Muslim workers and small vendors. That day, we probably had buffalo meat. The mob came when my brother was about to leave the shop in the evening. They attacked him, hit him with rods and ransacked our small shop.” He alleged that the mob threatened to kill Ali if he did not eat a piece of meat to hurt his religious sentiments. “My brother is in the hospital now. We have never seen such communalism here,” said Rehman.
“An FIR has been registered vide Case no. 80/ 2019 u/s 143/ 341/ 325/ 294(a)/ 295-A/ 153- A(b)/ 384 IPC. Investigators are on the job to apprehend the culprits,” said police in Biswanath.
Speaking to Outlook, some of the eyewitnesses said that the issue started when some of the locals went to seek a donation from the traders in the market. “When Ali denied to donate money, they started all these to take the revenge,” said a local in the condition of anonymity. The district administration and police have also called for a public meeting.
This is the second beef-related incident reported from Assam after the BJP-led coalition formed a government in the state in May 2016. In April 2017, Jorhat police had arrested three people, including a minor, for possessing beef meant for consumption following a complaint by a local BJP leader, accusing them of hurting the religious sentiments. They were later released as possessing beef for consumption is not a criminal offence under the state’s Cattle Preservation Act.
Assam’s Cattle Preservation Act, 1950 allows the slaughter of cows only over 14 years of age or those incapable of breeding. As per the Act, a fitness for slaughter certificate (loosely referred to as a license) must be granted by a veterinary doctor. However, consuming or selling beef is nor a cognisable offence in the state.
Assam is implementing the NRC in a bid to weed out illegal citizens. A final draft, published last year, saw names of over 40 lakh people, among a total of 3,29,91,384, applicants missing.
The BJP in its manifesto released on Monday said it "will expeditiously complete" the NRC on priority. The party also said that it would implement NRC in a phased manner across the country.
Biswanath, under the Tezpur Lok Sabha constituency, goes to polls in the first phase on April 11.