Police have arrested the primary accused in a case pertaining to a group of Muslim youths allegedly being forced to chant ‘Jai Sri Ram’ in Assam’s Barpeta district earlier this week. Barpeta SP Robin Kumar told The Sunday Express, “Debojit Deka has been arrested. He was booked under Sections 295A, 120B, 153A, and 325.” These IPC sections deal with offences of outraging religious feelings, criminal conspiracy, promoting enmity and causing grievous hurt.
A Guwahati resident, Deka had posted a video of the assault on the youths with the comment that “Ram Sainiks of Barpeta district” have taught a lesson to some people “saying Pakistan Zindabad”, police said. “He had uploaded the video. It is under investigation whether Deka was present in the mob that attacked the group,” Kumar said. Police are on the lookout for the other accused.
In the video — uploaded on Tuesday night — a group of Muslim youths in an auto-rickshaw are stopped and forced to shout ‘Jai Shri Ram’, ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’.
Speaking to The Sunday Express, Ashraful Islam (19), one of the eight persons in the auto, said the incident occurred around 9 pm on Tuesday. “We took an auto from Jonia to go to the railway station in Barpeta Road. We were on our way to Nepal to get jobs as welders. On the way, we were stopped by a group of 15-20 men, who asked us our names. They realised all eight of us were Muslim, and started shouting that we have to say ‘Jai Sri Ram’,” he said.
“When you watch the video, you will realise that one of us said we cannot say ‘Jai Shri Ram’, and they threatened us. They forced us to say it. What was edited out of the video is that they asked us to say ‘Pakistan Zindabad’, which we refused. I was wearing a cap with ‘India’ written on it, and I told them ‘I love my India’. They threatened us to say ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ and hit us and asked us to say ‘Pakistan Murdabad’. My left eye was injured.”
As the video started doing the rounds on local social media, the All Assam Minority Students’ Union (AAMSU) and North-East Minorities Students’ Union (NEMSU) registered police complaints. Congress MP from Barpeta constituency Abdul Khaleque also asked police to take action.
Deka describes himself as the founder of an organisation called Ram Sena, Assam, on Facebook. Barpeta Additional SP P K Kakati told The Sunday Express that he would not be able to comment on the organisation immediately without enquiries.
Deka’s Facebook timeline is lined with posts supporting Hindu nationalism and Hindutva. On Friday, he wrote about police contacting him and said he was a “Sanatani Hindu soldier” and not a thief or robber or rapist.
News reports show that last October Ram Sena had lodged a police complaint against activist Akhil Gogoi, pro-talks ULFA leader Jiten Dutta and AAMSU leader Azizur Rahman for calling a state-wide bandh against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill. Members of the outfit could not be reached for comment.