Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) strongly condemns the manner in which our member Ms Bondita Acharya, a well known women’s activist from Jorhat, Assam, is being criminally intimidated, abused in sexual language, defamed and trolled on her Facebook account only because she expressed her personal opinion regarding eating of beef, a common practice in her state of Assam, and opposed targeting of Muslims for the same. She is being threatened with acid attack, rape and gang rape and issued death threats. It is clear that the persons making these threats are associated with hindutva organisations and the Bajrang Dal has even issued a press release demanding a public apology. We demand that the complaint she has lodged with the Superintendent of Police (CID) be immediately registered and strong action be taken against the perpetrators of threats. Since Ms Bondita Acharya is also the North East Coordinator of Human Rights Defenders Alert and a member of Women In Governance, the inactivity of the administration in this regard is even more serious.
The background of the incident is that 3 Muslim persons including a minor were arrested on the outskirts of Jorhat town on 7th April 2017 while returning home with half a kg of beef. It is claimed that they were cooking the same in a temporary hut at a construction site where they were working. The arrest has been made under The Assam Cattle Preservation Act of 1950, which does not criminalize possession or consumption of beef but only lays down the circumstances under which cattle may be permitted to be slaughtered. The FIR had been lodged by an active BJP supporter Mridu Pawan Bora. Many people were critical of this arrest on the social media since the consumption of beef is common in the North East and not confined to only the Muslim community. While participating in the conversation, Ms Bondita Acharya also commented that people even from higher castes of Hindus consumed beef. Upon this there was a systematic and targeted barrage of extremely vicious, sexually laden and defamatory posts on social media regarding Ms Bondita Acharya threatening her with rape, murder, acid attack, public beating etc. It is pertinent that the Muslim community is already a target in Assam on account of criminalizing Muslim refugees from Bangladesh even while an exercise to grant citizenship to Hindu refugees is going on. WSS expresses serious concern at the deliberate efforts to communalise society by the Hindutva organisations and the newly elected BJP government and the consequences this will have upon the freedom and security of women of all communities.
Sudha Bhardwaj, Kalpana Mehta, Bittu, Rinchin, Kalyani Menon, Nisha Biswas and Ranjana Padhi