In April 2019, 68-year-old Shaukat Ali was beaten up for allegedly selling beef dishes in his restaurant located what was considered a ‘Hindu neighbourhood’ in Assam’s Biswanath Chairali district. He was not only accused of hurting Hindu sentiments, but also allegedly force-fed pork as a punishment. The National Commission for Human Rights has now issued a show cause notice to the Assam government.
In its ruling delivered on March 12, 2020, the NHRC said, “Issue notice u/s 18 of the PHR Act 1993 to the Chief Secretary, Assam to show cause as to why the Commission should not grant monetary relief of Rs. 1,00,000/- (Rs. One Lakh only) to the victim Shaukat Ali within 6 weeks.” The NHRC also said, “Director General of Police Assam is directed to submit action taken report against the guilty police officials within 6 weeks.”
The NHRC also found the actions of a public servant who was collecting taxes in the area with the help of local youth questionable. This public servant had tried to collect taxes from Ali. After carefully scrutinizing the Superintendent of Police’s report in the case, the NHRC ruled, “It is clearly discernible from the report that public servant was collecting revenue from the market involving some local unemployed youths which is against the law. The victim was found insulted and disgraced on basis of caste/religion, therefore, human rights of the victim were violated by collecting revenue by a public servant i.e. profession tax collector illegally. Police has apprehended 15 persons and forwarded them to judicial custody. Thus, prima facie it is a case of violation of human rights of the victim for which the State is vicariously liable to compensate the victim.”
We had first reported this incident last year, when a video of the assault went viral. It is also noteworthy that the incident had taken place around the time of the general elections held that year. 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.
It is noteworthy that 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.
The entire NHRC ruling may be read here: