IN ANOTHER alleged attack by gau rakshaks, two Muslim women who were suspected to be carrying beef were assaulted at the Mandsaur railway station in Madhya Pradesh Tuesday. As BSP chief Mayawati raised the issue in the Rajya Sabha Wednesday, the Congress said Dalits and Muslims were being targeted in the name of gau raksha.
A purported video of the incident shows the police standing by as a group of women, reportedly belonging to a right-wing group, assault the two victims — identified as Salma Ismail Mewati, 30, and Shameem Akhtar Hussain, 35, both residents of Khanpura locality of Mandsaur town — in the presence of some male activists. No action has been taken against any of the attackers.
The victims, however, were arrested on Tuesday and booked under Sections 4 and 5 of the Madhya Pradesh Gauvansh Vadh Pratishedh Act and Section 8 of Madhya Pradesh Agriculture Cattle Preservation Act, 1959. But Home Minister Bhupendra Singh said on Wednesday that the meat seized from them was buffalo meat. Slaughter of buffalo is not illegal in Madhya Pradesh.
After the home minister’s statement, the police were set to withdraw the sections under the anti-cow slaughter Act and book the women only under the cattle preservation law. “They will be released on bail because we have conveyed to the court that it was buffalo meat,’’ said Vijay Rao, investigating officer.
When asked about action against the attackers, the minister said the police would act if the two women filed a complaint against them.
“The group that beat up the women had specific information that they were carrying beef so they were waiting for their train to arrive. It turned out to be buffalo meat, but it could have been beef. People belonging to a particular religion transport meat from Jaora and Ratlam, smuggling it into Mandsaur in private vehicles, either driven or owned by the same community. They have started engaging women to avoid detection. The two women are habitual offenders,’’ said local BJP MLA Yashpal Singh Sisodiya.
The in-charge of Kotwali police station, M P Parihar, said four cases were filed against Salma and three against Shameem in 2010-2016. He said they had served one month in jail and were also fined.
Parihar said the two women had filed a written complaint against four-five unknown women.
As Mayawati raised the issue in the Rajya Sabha, BSP and Congress members rushed to the well of the House and shouted slogans against the BJP. “Mahila virodhi sarkar nahi chalegi, nahi chalegi (Anti-women government will not be tolerated)”, they shouted. “Dalit virodhi sarkar nahi chalegi, nahi chalegi (Anti-Dalit government will not be tolerated),” they shouted.
Mayawati said while the BJP talks of protecting the girl child and giving dignity and honour to women, it unleashes goons on them. She asked Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi to explain the targeting of women of his community in the name of cow protection. She pointed out that the incident comes close on the heels of the attack on a Dalit family in Gujarat.
“Let it be very clear. We are not against gau raksha. But targeting Dalits and Muslims in the name of gau raksha is something we are against,” said Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad.
Congress MP Anand Sharma also asked why Prime Minister Narendra Modi had not responded to the attacks on Dalits. “He has done chai pe charcha and mann ki baat, but why not on this issue,” he asked.
Responding to the Opposition attack, Naqvi said violence in any form and in any state must be condemned. “We don’t justify in anyway” violence against Dalits or women,” said Naqvi, who also holds the minority affairs portfolio. He said the Madhya Pradesh government had taken action in the case.
Meanwhile, Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Bhupendra Singh added that two other women were caught in Ratlam on suspicion of carrying beef. “Though the samples have been sent to a laboratory in Mathura for final examination, prima facie it appears to be beef,’’ he said.
The state amended its anti-cow slaughter Act in 2010, increasing the maximum jail term to seven years, shifting the burden of proof on the accused and giving designated officers authority to raid premises on suspicion. The amended legislation got presidential assent in 2012.
In January this year, a Muslim couple was among those beaten up at the Khirkiya railway station in Madhya Pradesh by members of the gau raksha samiti in Harda district when they objected to their luggage being searched on suspicion that they were carrying beef.
Laboratory tests later proved that the meat seized from the general compartment of Kushinagar Express in which the couple was travelling was buffalo meat.