A Gauhati University research scholar at the centre of a ‘beef’ controversy over a Facebook post she had deleted two years ago, has said she is being targeted to stop her from working on the ground to help people stressed out by the ongoing exercise to update the National Register of Citizens (NRC).
In a video and statement sent to The Hindu, Rehna Sultana said news stories about her by a section of the media were part of a “well-planned conspiracy to defame me and the work I am currently engaged in.”
The 28-year-old research scholar said she did not circulate any post on beef consumption or supporting the Pakistan cricket team on Bakrid. Such news released a couple of days before Independence Day was a planned attempt to create disorder in society, she added.
The Assam police on August 14 registered an FIR against Ms. Sultana over the Facebook post that resurfaced on social media platforms more than two years after she had deleted it. She was booked under Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code and Section 67 of the Information Technology Act.
“This is to bring to your notice that I had written a post in 2017. The context of the post was a cricket match and the post was written in the form of a parody, primarily out of the frustration of India having lost to Pakistan because of bad fielding and batting. That was also the time when many lynchings had taken place over beef,” Ms. Sultana said.
“I had deleted the post barely two minutes after posting it, having realised it was done in an agitated state of mind and could convey a different meaning. I also gave a clarification regarding the same. Today, all of a sudden, the issue has been brought back to focus and fake news has been added to it to create a sensational news story. I fail to understand the conspiracy behind taking the post out of context and the rapid circulation of the same,” she said.
“During a time when our State and country are passing through a critical phase, it is my request to media platforms and other forums to not create an unhealthy and unstable environment by raising a totally irrelevant issue. At the same time, I sincerely request you to consider my safety and let the matter alone,” Ms. Sultana said.
Series of FIRs
The research scholar said she had been slapped with four FIRs within a month.
On July 11, a freelance journalist named Pranabjit Doloi had lodged a complaint against her and nine others for projecting the Assamese community as xenophobic through a poem titled ‘I am a Miya.’
“The poem talks of their men being gunned down and women being raped. Assam has no such history. The real intention of this poem is to motivate and provoke their community against the system. This is a threat to the Assamese people and national security,” Mr. Doloi had said.
Associated with Bengal-origin Muslims, Miya or Miyah literature began in 2016 primarily to oppose the use of the derogatory ‘Miya’ used to refer to the community. Miya poetry has today become an umbrella term for telling stories of humiliation, discrimination, love and social awareness.
“Those who have filed FIRs say the poems have objectionable content. But these poems convey the angst of the Miya community in trying to establish their Assamese identity, and there’s nothing that warrants censure,” Ms. Sultana said.
She was also named in another complaint on August 13 that Right To Information activist Dulal Borah filed with the Criminal Investigation Department of the Assam police. Two others named in the complaint are Sofiqul Islam, a student of Gauhati University, and Mausumi Chetia, a research scholar based in The Hague, Netherlands.
The trio was accused of misusing social media to collect donations for helping people file applications against exclusion from the NRC.
“I wonder why I am being targeted in conspiracy after conspiracy at a critical time when the NRC is being updated. Every family in my village has had to travel 400-500 km for NRC re-verification at short notice. We have been helping the mostly poor and uneducated people read the notices, fill up forms and arrange transport. This is a ploy to remove me from working on the ground,” she said.