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Beef arrests criticised

SFI smells conspiracy

By Avishek Sengupta in Guwahati
  • Published 8.04.17
Debabrata Saikia

Guwahati, April 7: Several organisations, including the Opposition Congress, today condemned the arrest of three persons, including a minor, for carrying beef in Jorhat town on Wednesday.

On Tuesday night, Shah Jamal Haque, 21, and Abdul Rahman, 19, were arrested following an altercation with locals on charges of hurting religious sentiments by "openly carrying" beef through a street in Gohain Tekela.

The duo were remanded in judicial custody for 14 days by the court of the Jorhat chief judicial magistrate while the minor was sent to the Juvenile Lichubari Observation Home.

Leader of the Opposition in the Assam Assembly Debabrata Saikia described the incident as a "breach of personal choice" in the state.

"This is an attempt by the Sarbananda Sonowal-led BJP government to break the peace and brotherhood among the Hindus and Muslims in the state. What is more worrisome is that the government machinery is being misused to create chaos between the two sections instead of handling the issue tactfully," Saikia said.

"Since beef is not completely banned in the state, by arresting people carrying beef, the government is breaching people's choice of food," he said.

Terming the arrest "fascistic fundamentalism", All Assam Students' Union (AASU) general secretary Lurin Jyoti Gogoi said: "The government does not have the right or the authority to decide what one can or should eat."

Assam had enacted the Assam Cattle Preservation Act way back in 1950, which clearly bans cow slaughter. But, Section 5 of the act permits slaughter of cattle on issue of "fit-for-slaughter" certificates. These certificates can be issued by veterinarians if the bovines are over 14 years of age or have become permanently incapacitated for work or breeding due to injury, deformity or any incurable disease. Section 6 says bovines can be slaughtered only in places specified by authorities, however, section 13 waives this rule on Id.

Ashik Rabbani, general secretary of the Muslim Students' Union of Assam said, "The arrest would have made sense if beef was banned in Assam. But since this is not the case, we condemn the arrest. Beef is widely consumed in Assam and the Northeast by Muslims and Christians. It cannot be banned here."

The Students' Federation of India (SFI) sniffed "political conspiracy" behind the incident.

"The incident seems to be intermingled with a political conspiracy to disturb communal harmony. One has the right to eat what one wishes to. This type of communally-directed actions may lead to serious communal disturbances in the state," Niran Kush Nath, state secretary of SFI, said.

Assam has the second-highest percentage of Muslims among all states after Jammu and Kashmir. As per the 2011 census, Muslims make up 34.22 per cent of the state's population.

Assam BJP spokesperson Rupam Goswami said: "The government did not meddle with the food choice of the people, but took this step to preserve the religious sentiments of the majority of people residing in that area (Gohain Tekela)."

According to a sources in Jorhat, there is only one licensed slaughter house in the district that sells beef.