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What Exactly Happened With Shaukat Ali in Assam?

The recorded narration of the incident on April 7 by the elderly Muslim shopkeeper who was beaten up and forced to eat pork, reveals callous handling by the police.
shaukat ali assam

Image Courtesy: The Wire

On April 7, an elderly Muslim man named Shaukat Ali was heckled and abused by a mob at Biswanath Chariali town in Assam. Ali was thrashed by the mob for allegedly selling beef in the weekly market. Moreover, to the utter disgrace of any sensitive human being, Ali was made to kneel down and forced to eat pork by the mob, as per reports.

Reportedly, the police rescued Ali from the mob and later arrested four-five people allegedly involved in the incident. Nevertheless, what exactly happened with Ali that day has not been clearly reported anywhere, neither did a narration of events from Ali about the incident appear anywhere. It was only on Thursday, when Ali was admitted to the Gauhati Medical College & Hospital (GMCH), that a few people, including some freelance journalists and researchers, could talk to him and record his version of the incident. Later, the recording was uploaded on social media.

Among the few people who could manage to talk to Ali in GMCH was Rehana Sultana, a researcher of Gauhati University. Speaking to Newsclick, Rehna narrated her experience in GMCH as also what Ali said during the short conversation.

The striking thing that came out from Ali’s narrative is the impudence of the police in dealing with the case. They kept Ali in the police station for the whole night after they took him away from the mob. They also did not provide him any medical aid; he was not even allowed to get a change of clothes. It was only the next day, April 8, that he was admitted to hospital for primary medical check-up, as per Ali.

From the political perspective, the timing of incident is very crucial. It took place just three days before the first phase of polling for Lok Sabha on April 11. Biswanath Chariali, which comes under the Tezpur Lok Sabha constituency, this time is seeing a fight between Pallab Lochan Das of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and M.G.V.K Bhanu of Congress. Notably, Das, who is the minister for labour and employment, and tea tribes welfare (both independent charges) in Assam, recently had to face criticism from tea garden workers for his alleged failure in providing them with minimum wage. Tea workers constitute a significant section in the constituency.

On Thursday, when people arrived at GMCH to get a first-hand account of the incident, the situation was tense with huge deployment of police. There was restriction on anyone wanting to meet Ali, as instructed by the superintendent of GMCH. However, after much commotion, a team could meet Ali and register his version of what actually happened that day.

Ali runs a small eatery shop in the weekly market of Biswanath Chariali. This small business has been run by his family for almost 30-40 years now. Ali’s grandfather started the business, which was continued by his father and his elder brother, and now Ali is continuing the tradition.

He usually sells meat and rice and the locals, especially tribals, are his regular customers. He said he never faced any problem in running the eatery.

Last Thursday, a group of men came to Ali’s shop and started asking him how could he sell meat there? The group bombarded him with questions like whether he is a Bangladeshi or a Pakistani, whether his name had appeared in the National Register of Citizens etc. He said that they even threatened him against selling meat.

On Sunday, the group came again to his shop, heckled him and asked him to show where the meat is hidden in his shop. Ali told them that he didn’t sell meat that day. Refusing to believe him, the group created havoc in the name of searching for meat in his shop, he said.

After the group disappeared, Ali was on his way home for lunch when a Moholdar (a contractor of the market) of the area took him to a nearby paan shop and left him with two persons, ordering them to not to let Ali go anywhere. Ali was not even allowed to go to the urinal; neither was he allowed to offer namaz.

Meanwhile, some boys came to the paan shop and took Ali in an e-rickshaw. While in the e- rickshaw, the boys badly beat Ali and at a distance, pushed him out. Ali said he could not move because of the beating. At that time, the mob made him kneel down. While he was kneeling, someone from the group put some pork in his mouth and told him to chew it. Ali couldn’t refuse but chew the pork. In the meantime, the police arrived and told the group to stop beating him and took Ali to the nearby police station.

Also Read: Elderly Muslim Heckled for Allegedly selling Beef in Assam

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