Four days after a Muslim shopkeeper in Assam was assaulted allegedly for serving beef, police on Saturday arrested the suspected conspirator of the mob violence. On 9 April, 68-year-old Shaukat Ali was beaten up and forced to eat pork by a group of people in a market in the Biswanath district. The mob was reportedly angry with him for selling beef.
The manager of the market, who was absconding after the incident, was arrested on Friday evening. Reports said that so far eight people have been arrested in connection with the case and Section 144 has been imposed in the district after the incident. The Biswanath district magistrate has also ordered a magistrate-level probe into the matter, sources said.
A video of the incident that went viral showed a dazed Ali " who is now undergoing medical treatment at the Guwahati Medical College and Hospital " surrounded by some people who angrily demanded to know where he came from, and whether his name figured in the contentious National Register of Citizens (NRC).
Superintendent of Police Rakesh Raushan was quoted by PTI as saying that the locals who assaulted Ali were not aligned to any fundamentalist organisation.
Ali, who owns a food stall, claimed he was force-fed pork by the assailants but police did not confirm it. "We have also heard about that. It is a matter of investigation. It is only after that has been done that I will be able to tell," the SP said.
Ali claimed he had been selling beef at the market for over three decades and never faced such a situation. The group also beat up 42-year-old Kamal Thapa, the contractor of the market, for allowing Ali to sell beef dishes.
Attention @sarbanandsonwal This old man was beaten up in Bishwanath Charialifor selling beef. Beef is not banned in Assam and the northeast. Many communities apart from Muslims consume beef. But interestingly self appointed gaurakshaks find only poor Muslim traders to harass. pic.twitter.com/I7lg1YMKu0
" Berojgar BeingMuzakki (@Muzakki82091009) April 8, 2019
A case was registered with the Biswanath Chariali police station on the complaint of the victim's brother Sahabuddin Ali on Monday evening. The police superintendent said raids are on to apprehend others involved in the incident.
Cow slaughter and consumption of beef is not banned in the state but the Assam Cattle Preservation Act, 1950, permits the slaughter of only cattle above 14 years of age after due certification by a veterinary officer.
On Friday, Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal asked the Director General of Police to take stern action against the perpetrators. The AIUDF and Jamiat Ulema's Assam unit also condemned the incident and claimed it was a conspiracy to disturb peace in the state ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.
"Before the Lok Sabha elections, an attempt has been made to polarise voters", AIUDF chief Moulana Badruddin Ajmal said, appealing to people to maintain peace and harmony in the state.
The AIUDF and the Jamiat Ulema issued separate press releases condemning the incident. "The incident proves that the BJP-led government in Assam has failed to maintain law and order. A powerful minister of the government is involved in the incident," Jamiat Ulema state president, Maulana Fazlul Karim Kasimi alleged, without elaborating.
Jamiat Ulema Biswanath Chariali leaders also submitted a memorandum to the deputy commissioner on Tuesday demanding that such incidents do not recur, their release said. Some rights groups also held a protest in Guwahati on Tuesday.
A man was beaten to death and three others were critically injured when villagers assaulted them on suspicion of being cattle thieves in Biswanath district in August last year. Sunday's incident came to light when a video shot by one among the group of assailants went viral on social media.
Biswanath district is part of the Tezpur Lok Sabha constituency that went to polls in the first phase of general elections on 11 April.
With inputs from agencies and 101 Reporters