5 Bajrang Dal Men Held for Attacking K’taka Muslim Women Over Beef
In an incident that has rattled the small community of Raghavendra Nagar, in Sakleshpur taluk in Karnataka, unknown miscreants, believed to be from right-wing Bajrang Dal, attacked two elderly Muslim women on 31 January, on the pretext of these women cooking and selling beef items at the local village market.
Khamrunissa, 70 years old, and her sister-in-law Shamim, 50 years old, were attacked and had their small stalls burnt down by enraged youths who believed they were selling beef. According to the women, the miscreants overturned their vessels of food, kicked their stove and gas cylinder, and finally doused the plastic tarp covering the stall with kerosene and burnt it to the ground. Much of the hot food splashed on the women’s faces and bodies. They were also manhandled and threatened not to come to the fair again.
On Tuesday, police arrested four men and a minor for attacking the two women. The arrested attackers were identified as Karthik, 24, Deepu, 21, Prathap, 29, Raghu, 20 and the minor, who was not named by the police. According to police, Karthick is the president of the local unit of the Bajarang Dal. The four arrested men have been sent to judicial custody, while minor has been handed over to the juvenile justice department.
An FIR was lodged at the Sakleshpur Town police station the following day. AN Prakash Gowda, Superintendent of Police, Hassan, confirmed that no beef was recovered from the ladies’ stalls.
‘You’re Next if You Sell Beef Here Again’: Youths
According to Khamrunissa, the incident took place around 3 pm on Thursday, 31 January, when she along with her sister-in-law, Shamim, were at the weekly village fair or santhe.
The duo had been attending the fair regularly for the last 40-odd years to sell food items like idli, sambhar, chicken and mutton curries, parottas and chappatis. Khamrunissa said that they were the only stall at the fair selling non-vegetarian food.
“They came and started asking questions – what we sell, how long we have been setting up the stall at the fair, whether we were selling beef. We tried to tell them that we only prepared chicken and mutton items but they did not listen. They started destroying our stall. Kicking the vessels with food, overturning the stove and cylinder. Hot oil and food spilt on us. They grabbed my hands, and started pushing me around. They said, ‘If you try to sell beef here again, next time we will burn you alive’.”Khamrunissa to The Quint
The Bajrang Dal members allegedly proceeded to pour fuel all over the tarp covering the stall and all the cooking paraphernalia of the stall, which resulted in a blast that caused flames going up several feet in the air, singeing the branches above.
The youths fled as soon as the cops came to the scene while everything slowly turned to soot. Khamrunissa said that she has lost nearly Rs 50,000-60,000 worth of goods in the rampage.
“They were all youngsters, not older than their early 20s. We kept telling them to stop but they were so enraged. Even people standing around were scared to do anything because of the fuel they had; nobody wanted to risk their lives. I am lucky to be alive,” said Khamrunissa.
A Bajrang Dal Function was Held the Same Day
According to locals, members of the local Bajrang Dal outfit were observing a Gau Yatra programme the same day and were taking out a procession around the town the morning of 31 January.
Shabana, daughter of Khamrunissa said that the function had started at 10 am the same morning, that made its way to the santhe the same afternoon.
“There were 10-15 participants. They reached the APMC yard where the fair was happening by 3 pm. My mother and aunt were the only ones selling meat, the others sell vegetables and other knick-knacks but they have been doing so for the last many decades. They dont even cook at the spot, they prepare the food at home and only carry utensils to heat the food in case it gets cold,”she said.
According to the SP of Hassan district Dr A N Prakash Gowda, an FIR has been registered under Sections 323, 506, 143, 147, 149, 354 of the IPC. These include charges of voluntarily causing hurt, criminal intimidation, unlawful assembly, rioting, unlawful assembly in prosecution of common objective and criminal force against a woman.
‘We Are Scared, But Can’t Stop Working’
For Khamrunissa, selling her wares at the weekly fair has been her sole source of income for the last several decades.
“We have lost thousands in damaged goods for no fault of ours. We thought it would be like any other day. We are scared, I am lucky to be alive but I cannot stop working out of fear. How will we live our lives then?”she asked.