09, Apr 2019 | Zamser Ali
Two videos of an elderly man being forced to consume meat have gone viral on social media in Assam. The videos show 68 year old Shawkat Ali, a beef seller, being physically assaulted with sticks and iron rods, and then forced to eat pork. The timing of the video is also crucial given how elections begin on April 11.
Ali was punished for allegedly selling beef at a roadside hotel that he has been running for over 35 years in Biswanath Chariali town in upper Assam. Now, it is important to note that there is no ban on the sale or consumption of beef in Assam. It is also deeply disturbing that the man, a Muslim, is forced to eat pork or pig meat that is forbidden in Islam, making this a clear case of targeted violence. What is also significant is that the assailants are allegedly BJP workers and supporters.
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In both videos, Ali is seen kneeling down in slush, surrounded by an irate mob allegedly comprising BJP workers and supporters, who demand to know why he was allegedly selling beef? They can be heard asking “Do you have a license to sell beef?” One can also see that Ali’s nationality is being questioned by his assailants. “Are you a Bangladeshi? Is your name appeared in the NRC,” they ask him as they rain blows on the frail elderly gentleman who appears resigned to his fate and doesn’t fight back.
This question about nationality is also significant in the present climate given how Assam is currently updating its National Register of Citizens in a bid to identify foreigners in the state. The NRC draft released in July 2018 left out over 40 lakh people, most of them either Muslims or Bengali Hindus, people of Nepali descent or members of certain marginalised tribal and ethnic groups. The list also excluded a large number of married women who had relocated to their husband’s village post marriage but did not have any documents to prove their identity.
Ali was seriously injured and is presently under treatment at Biswanath Chariali civil hospital. Speaking to CJP, he said, “On the morning of April 8, I reached my hotel and started working like it was any other day. One Mahalder (belonging to Non-Muslim community) person asked me whether I have taken beef. When I confirmed that I have taken beef for sale, the Mahalder asked me to supply the beef to his house.”
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In the evening few people came and ransacked his hotel, but Ali managed to escape from the spot. When the group of miscreants left the hotel, he came out and tried to go back home. Meanwhile, the Mahalder of the market allegedly took him to main point of Biswanath Chariali town by his motorcycle and handed over him to two other shopkeepers. He was kept there for about two hours and Ali was also prevented from offering Asor namaz… yet another action that shows that Ali was not only punished for allegedly selling beef, but was also targeted for being Muslim.
Shortly afterwards, a group of BJP supporters came to the spot and assaulted him physically and took him to another location where he was kicked, beaten up. He was then filmed as he was forced to consume pork. All this happened in public and everything was caught on camera, which was made viral by the group of miscreants.
Biswanath Chariali town, which is headquarter of Biswanath District is famous for Indian nationalist movement and communal amity never witnessed such incident earlier. It is also important to reiterate that beef is not banned in Assam and as many as 10 Non-Muslim groups of people also consume beef regularly. Even, the union minister of State for Home, Kiren Rijiju often says in public that the BJP has no beef ban policy of BJP in North-East as many tribal groups including himself takes beef on regular basis.
Dr. Apurba Kumar Baruah Retd. Professor of North East Hills University in his public opinion reacted to the incident saying that “the incident was a fully pre-planned to polarisation of votes at a time when BJP has lost its support base in the state. People must react by voting against BJP and its allies to reflect their anguish against illegal, undue, intolerant and communal activity.”
Featured image credit: YouTube