BJP legislators thrashed an independent MLA for hosting a beef party as the Jammu and Kashmir assembly grounded on Thursday opposition-backed bills aiming to overthrow a decades-old ban on cattle meat in the state.
Lawmakers from the ruling party threw kicks and punches at Engineer Rashid a day after he reportedly served beef kebabs and patties on the lawns of the state legislators’ hostel in protest against the prohibition on cow slaughter that has triggered debates and communal concerns in parts of the country.
Rashid said he didn’t wish to offend anyone and hadn’t broken any rules as the Supreme Court this week suspended the colonial-era beef ban under the state’s Ranbir Penal Code (RPC) for two months after separate wings of the J&K high court gave conflicting orders on the issue.
“Nearly six to eight BJP members grabbed me and kicked and punched me,” the MLA told the media. “Is this democratic behaviour? And you expect separatists to join this assembly.”
The Langate legislator has been in the news for leading protests against the ban and also courted controversy this month when he demanded that the remains of terrorist Afzal Guru, who was executed for his involvement in the 2001 Parliament attack, be returned to his family in the Valley.
Amid the uproar, separate opposition bills seeking amendments to the RPC to decriminalise cattle slaughter were not taken up by the assembly on Thursday despite being listed for discussion, prompting criticism from the National Conference, Left and Congress leaders.
Speaker Kavinder Gupta adjourned the House for the day at 1.30 pm, the schedule followed in the assembly during the current session, despite opposition leaders seeking more time to discuss the issue.
“It seems that you have already decided to adjourn the house as the chief minister has left the House,” an angry Omar Abdullah, NC leader and former chief minister, told the Speaker. “This seems to be a way to save their chairs. This government is hiding behind you.”
Watch | Independent MLA assaulted in J&K Assembly for hosting beef party
The beef ban controversy has emerged as a nettlesome test for the ideologically divergent PDP and BJP that tied up to form the J&K government this year after voters delivered a fractured mandate.
“You cannot manhandle an MLA,” said chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed of the PDP as he condemned the attack on Rashid.
The incident comes against the backdrop of a raging debate across the country over cow slaughter with hardline Hindu organisations pushing for a nationwide ban and minority groups resisting the move. Last week, a mob dragged a Muslim man out of his home in an Uttar Pradesh village and bludgeoned him to death with sticks and stones over suspicions that he butchered a calf.
The beef row snowballed in Jammu and Kashmir after a division bench of the high court instructed authorities to strictly implement the ban, an order that drew sharp reactions from separatists and several minority groups who called it “interference in religious affairs” and sought revocation of the law.
The laws governing slaughter of cows, bullocks and buffaloes vary from state to state. Jammu and Kashmir has a 10-year jail term for flouting the ban, while many northeastern states are allowing slaughter of all three.
Roll over the interactive map below for state-wise laws.
The Supreme Court was hearing the Jammu and Kashmir government’s plea against “conflicting orders” issued by the Jammu and Srinagar benches of the high court on the beef ban in the state.
The PDP-BJP government in Jammu and Kashmir led by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was forced to seek the apex court’s intervention so that “communal harmony is not disrupted” by inconsistent judicial pronouncements.
Rashid last week disrupted the first day of the Jammu and Kashmir assembly’s autumn session when he accused the PDP-BJP government of carrying forward the agenda of the RSS. “To hurt the sentiments of Muslims of the state, you are carrying forward the agenda of the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh). It will not work,” he said.
The legislator has submitted a bill seeking revocation of a 1862 law that bans cow slaughter and the sale and possession of beef in the state.