By Maya Palit
According to a statement put out by yesterday the grassroots organisation Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS), one of their members is being harassed online by Bajrang Dal activists. Bondita Acharya, a human rights activist in Jorhat, Assam, is having to deal with sexually explicit abuse, death threats, trolling, threats of acid attacks, and rape threats, including those of gang rape.
The people attacking her were apparently outraged because she openly critiqued an incident that took place in Jorhat last week, where three people (including one minor) were arrested for the possession of beef. They had half a kilogram of beef on them, and were intending to cook it before being arrested under The Assam Cattle Preservation Act of 1950 (which doesn’t criminalise the possession of beef but has various stipulations regarding the circumstances under which the animal can be slaughtered).
All Acharya was doing was voicing her opinions on the arrest on social media, participating in a debate which reflected on the fact that beef consumption in the North-East is hardly confined to the Muslim community. (Various media outlets in the country have been debating the legality of the arrest, in any case.) But the moment she suggested that people from higher castes, including Hindus, eat beef, the attacks began coming her way. Acharya lodged a complaint with Guwahati police on April 10th, and in the meantime, the Bajrang Dal has apparently demanded a public apology from her for her criticism of the arrests.
While the Supreme Court brought up the idea of banning gau rakshaks with the Centre after the spate of violence caused by cow vigilantes this month led to the death of a Muslim man in Haryana, we need to be particularly cautious at the attempts to incite communal hatred online through death and rape threats.