Roshan Gupta | May 21, 2019 | 6 min read
ISLAMPUR (NORTH DINAJPUR)
In a shocking incident of fence itself eating the crop, some Border Security Force (BSF) personnel have 'harassed' three members of a Muslim family for carrying beef near the Sripur BSF Border Outpost (BOP), under the Islampur sub-division in North Dinajpur district of West Bengal, recently.
The case reported along the Indo-Bangladesh border has reminded Indian citizens of the series of recent attacks over people carrying and storing beef in several states. Such unfortunate events have triggered widespread protests, as rights activists raise their voice against intolerance in the name of cow vigilantism, by invoking the ‘right to freedom of food’ of different communities.
At Sripur, the three family members were apparently frisked by BSF personnel from the 171 Battalion on May 5 (Sunday) at around 11.30 am. While one of them gave the security forces the slip, two others, a father-son duo, were caught and allegedly beaten up. The victims have been identified as Giyasuddin, 65, Anwarul, 30 and Tajimuddin, 45.
Mr Tajimuddin filed a complaint with the local police the same day. "On May 5, my brother Giyasuddin, his son, Anwarul, and I went to the Debiganj Haat (weekly market) for the ‘rukhsati’ of the bride (daughter-in-law of Giyasuddin). After returning from the market via the Sripur camp road, two BSF jawans intercepted us and enquired what was inside our bags. We opened our bags and showed them their contents; we had purchased 15 kg of beef from Debiganj for our guests,” Mr Tajimuddin explained to this correspondent.
“Upon seeing the meat, the BSF personnel assaulted Anwarul and took us to the BOP near Paulpara Chowk. While my brother and I were asked to wait outside, Anwarul was taken inside and physically tortured. Subsequently, the jawans took us towards the Indo-Bangladesh border, but Anwarul resisted their attempt. They stopped their vehicle midway and started bashing Anwarul and Giyasuddin again, while I managed to flee in the guise of drinking water. I returned home and informed the locals about the incident. The same night I filed a complaint at the Goalpokher police station and admitted Anwarul and Giyasuddin at a hospital.”
Mr Anwarul was admitted at the Islampur hospital for seven days before being discharged on May 12. “We were returning on a motorcycle and around 11.30 am-12 noon, we were frisked by two BSF jawans near the BOP. We told them we were carrying beef as we had a family function. We even asked them to visit our house and check the same, but they refused to budge and demanded a trade licence. I don’t have a licence as I don’t sell beef. They instead took us to the BOP and started hitting me on my back with a stick, and slapped and kicked me for about 10 to 15 minutes. The jawans even kept a knife on my fingers and threatened that they will chop them off. One of the BSF men said, 'No, don’t do that! He will survive and will put us into trouble later'," Mr Anwarul recounted his ordeal.
"The BSF personnel further blackmailed that they would take us to the border and kill us. When they started taking us to the border, I refused to go and they summoned more colleagues of theirs. In no time, 6-7 personnel reached the spot. They covered my face with a piece of cloth and started beating me up again," he added.
Mr Anwarul is a labourer by profession and works in Delhi. He had come home to cast his vote and attend the family wedding.
Meanwhile, Mr Giyasuddin also said that he was beaten up with the stick seven times on his shoulder. “We were thrashed just for carrying beef. We suspect some Hindus may have informed the BSF about our plans, as we have to take the Hindu-dominated route. It is intolerance in the name of cow vigilantism. The BSF later gave us Rs 5,000; we will be receiving Rs 10,000 from the BDO office for our suffering, and for settling the matter amicably,” said Mr Giyasuddin. All his four children are daily wage earners in Delhi.
Speaking to a local daily, Md Anjar Alam Rahi, who was present at the BDO office on May 9, said, "They have settled the matter on mutual understanding. They agreed on Rs 5,000-Rs 15,000 from the BSF and Rs 10,000 from the BDO office. A political leader did not allow a case to be filed and stressed on an amicable settlement."
A panchayat member, Buswanath Singh, who witnessed the entire ruckus, said, "When I reached the spot, the BSF personnel were assaulting Anwarul in front of the locals. One more vehicle with BSF personnel reached the spot and they warned the villagers not to repeat such an act. We had a word with the jawans saying that the victims were having a family function. After repeated pleading, they took Anwarul and his father to the border and buried the meat right there. Anwarul was later taken to the Islampur hospital and his father to the Lodhi primary health centre for medical aid and treatment."
According to police sources, they visited the victims’ house a day after the complaint was lodged. "The locals and the victims' family, however, said that they wanted an amicable settlement by withdrawing the complaint and did not want police interference in the matter."
Meanwhile, District Magistrate of North Dinajpur, Arvind Meena, has decided to write to the Inspector General of the BSF, North Bengal, Ajmal Singh Kathat, against ‘deterioration of relations’ between BSF personnel and Goalpokher civilians. "We heard about the incident at Nargun village in Goalpokher. We will send a letter to the IG, BSF, North Bengal, about the problems faced by the villagers. On the other hand, we are also seeking a report from the SP of the district," said Mr Meena. Mr Kathat refused to comment on the matter.
The Panchayat and Rural Development state (in charge) minister, Ghulam Rabbani, said it was shameful that BSF jawans were checking whether villagers were eating beef. "It is not the duty of the BSF. They should pay attention to the borders instead of interfering in the lifestyle of common people."
It is also learnt that Mr Rabbani later had a talk with Mr Kathat and the Inspector General of Police of North Bengal, Anand Kumar, on the matter. "I have brought the issue to the notice of North Bengal Frontier IG, BSF, Mr Kathat and Mr Kumar, demanding justice for the innocent villagers," Rabbani said.
Former CPI(M) Member of Parliament from Raiganj in North Dinajpur, Muhammad Salim, has also decided to take up the issue with high-ranking officials of the BSF and demand justice for the victims.
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