On 1st May, 2020 two Muslim neighbours of Jahnabi Gogoi, Samiruddin and Mobidul Rahman came to her doorstep and started abusing her in the vilest of language as turning on the TV was disturbing their namaz during the holy month of Ramzan. They had threatened to cut-off their throats if they do not abide by the diktats issued by the Muslims in the vicinity.
Jahnabi Gogoi has also been threanted by the same Muslim neighbours on earlier occasions for establishing a small temple within her house and also for ensuring that her husband, a former Muslim, became a Hindu after their marraige.
What exactly happened
The day was Friday, the first of May, 2020. Around 6 pm in the evening, Jahnabi Gogoi, aged 39 and a mother of an eight year old girl, had just come back from the small canteen she runs in the Nazira Circle Office compound. Like many, she was trying hard to pull through the hardships brought about by the lockdown due to the Chinese corona pandemic. Life has become difficult even for her family of three persons. Her husband is a small time mason, with no work in hand because of the lockdown. When the State Government decided to open a few government offices with half of the staff, including the Nazira Circle Office, her joy was full because at least now she could half open her small canteen, earn half of what she was earning before the lockdown, and manage to get two full meals a day. And then this happened.
She came back from the canteen, and switched on the TV while attending to the household chores. Before the lockdown, after a hard day’s work, she would watch some serials. But after the outbreak of this virus, it has become a habit to catch some news as soon as she arrived. She would listen to the regular official press meets stating the current status of the pandemic and half-heartedly wait for the government to announce lifting of the lockdown. But it was not to be!
That day too she was listening to the news when her neighbor Samiruddin, started abusing her in the vilest of language. The reason, she should not watch TV at that time as it was disturbing their namaz in the holy month of Ramzan. When she came out of the house, another neighbour, Mobidul Rahman also came with a dao (a kind of large knife) in hand and he too started abusing her. In a fit of uncontrollable anger, he even hit the ground with his dao near her feet. Samiruddin then grabbed her neck, and slapped her in the face several times because she watching TV was disturbing their namaz.
Jahnabi Gogoi then rushed to the nearby police station and filed an FIR. The police waited until the next day to register the case. The police registered the FIR no. 172/2020 dated 1-5-2020 u/s 448/354(A)/325/294. The assailants also filed an FIR against her. That’s when she sought the help of local workers of the Rashtriya Bajrang Dal. Sri Bijoy Kumar Das, Sivasagar District secretary of the Rashtriya Bajrang Dal filed an FIR seeking justice for Jahnabi Gogoi. She was under tremendous pressure from the police, and some persons associated with two organizations and media, to accept an out-of-court settlement.
Result of Muslim votebank
Nazira is a stronghold of the Congress, and the local MLA is Sri Debabrata Saikia, son of ex-chief minister of Assam late Hiteswar Saikia. Muslims constitute a major vote bank for the Congress. As a community they are economically strong and politically well-connected. One of the assailants, Samiruddin, is of Bangladeshi origin whose name is not even in the NRC.
Jahnabi Gogoi informed us that this is not the first time her Muslim neighbours quarreled with her. According to her, their main grudge is she persuaded her Muslim husband Md. Kapil Uddin to leave his family religion Islam and become a Hindu. In an affidavit signed on 19-7-2017 before the notary public at Sivasagar, her husband declared that he converted himself from Islam to Hindu by his own will and free consent and would be known as Kapil Gogoi instead of his former name Kapil Uddin. Previously, her Muslim neighbors also objected to her establishing a small temple in her house for her family’s private worship. The assailants and their protectors have now resorted to arm-twisting and started threatening the witnesses.
The whole incident seems to be just the tip of the iceberg, and Nazira, an important town of upper Assam, may already be sitting on a hot communal land-mine. A Muslim majority neighborhood preventing a Hindu family to erect a small family temple in their own yard, objecting to them watching TV during namaz brings to mind similar incidents happening in other parts of India and their aftermath.