The National Human Rights Commission has ordered the Assam government to pay Rs 1 lakh to a man who was assaulted by a mob on the suspicion of selling beef in a weekly market in Assam’s Biswanath district in April 2019, PTI reported on Thursday. The rights body warned the Director-General of Police of initiating action against him if a report against the accused is not sent within four weeks.
Considering the matter on September 9, based on a complaint by Leader of the Opposition Debabrata Saikia, the NHRC said that the chief secretary had not replied to its show-cause notice nor did the director-general of police submit the action taken report against the guilty police officials in the case.
In the show-cause notice sent earlier, the rights body noted that prima facie the case was a “violation of human rights of the victim for which the state is vicariously liable to compensate the victim”
“The Commission has not received reply or any response to show cause notice from the concerned authority which led [the] Commission to observe that the concerned authority has nothing to urge upon the Commission with regard to the show cause notice,” the NHRC said in a letter to the chief secretary. “Therefore, the Commission confirms its recommendation and directs to the Chief Secretary, Government of Assam to release amounting to Rs 1,00,000 to the victim Shaukat Ali and submit a report along with proof of payment to the Commission within six weeks.”
On April 8, 2019, Shaukat Ali was assaulted by a mob in Assam on the suspicion of serving beef. Later, he was also forced to eat a piece of pork. The incident took place at his eatery at the bi-weekly market in Baihata Chariali. It had come to light after a video made by one of the perpetrators went viral on social media.
In the clip, Ali can be seen sitting in sludge, dirt all over his clothes and 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. The mob is then seen questioning Ali about his nationality. “Are you Bangladeshi? Is your name in the NRC [National Register of Citizens]?” “Bangladeshi” is a commonly-used slur in Assam where the spectre of undocumented migration forms the centrepiece of the state’s identity politics.
A contractor of the market was also allegedly beaten up for allowing Ali to run the shop. The police registered a case next day after receiving a complaint from the victim’s brother Shahabuddin Ali. A Bharatiya Janata Party ward member was among those arrested in connection with the incident. Ali had claimed that his family had been selling cooked beef in the market for over three decades and never faced any such harassment before, according to PTI.
Assam’s Cattle Preservation Act, 1950 allows 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 license) must be granted by a veterinary doctor. However, consuming or selling beef is nor a cognisable offence in the state.
In its letter to the Assam government, the National Human Rights Commission also referred to a report, which stated that a “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,” the rights body said.