Beaten for Feeding Dogs or Being Kashmiri, Family a Target of Delhi Hate Crime

Objection to the family feeding stray dogs in the neighbourhood appears to have escalated into a full-fledge physical attack on four sisters and their brother. The police is now investigating the crime.

New Delhi: Five members of a Kashmiri family, including four women, who regularly feed stray dogs in southeast Delhi’s Siddharth Extension, were allegedly assaulted by a mob on Thursday night, following which the police launched a probe, an officer told PTI on Friday.

The victims said they were surrounded and beaten by a mob comprising 30-40 people, some of whom were armed with hockey sticks. They alleged that the mob shouted anti-Kashmiri slogans as well.

A disturbing video of the incident uploaded on Facebook by People for Animals, a Delhi-based NGO, shows an injured woman on the road, identified as Azra Muzafar, slumped against a car trying to shield herself as women and men surround her menacingly wielding sticks. She is shrieking in pain and as the clip ends, blows and shrieks can be heard.

The police have registered a case on the basis of a complaint filed by one of the Kashmiri women in which she said that she was manhandled and abused.

“The complainant is an avid dog lover and animal rights activist. There have been more than 50 complaints and counter-complaints against the residents of Siddharth Enclave and the complainant,” a police official was quoted as saying.

An FIR under appropriate sections of the law has been registered on the complaint, the police said.

A woman in the  neighbourhood, Sangeeta Tripathi, was quoted by NDTV as denying the charges. “The woman beat herself up to inflict self-injuries. They claimed we thrashed her…it is all lies. I snatched the stick from her to stop her. No one thrashed her,” she said.

Objection to feeding stray dogs turns nasty

Despite the high court noting recently that the feeding of stray dogs was both helpful and lawful, arguments and fights over the feeding of strays is a common occurrence in many of Delhi’s middle class neighbourhoods.

In Thursday’s incident, however, the victims alleged that they were targeted because they were Kashmiris.

One of the victims said that  some of the members of the mob were shouting slogans like ‘Kashmiri terrorists should be sent back’.

“My sisters were abused and beaten up. I have a broken left hand and one of my guests who had come to visit us was also attacked. It was a planned attack and the accused were carrying hockey sticks”, he said.

Residents of the colony were quoted in some media reports as saying they were carrying sticks to defend themselves against stray dogs. While it is common to see individual walkers in the capital resorting to this precaution, it is not clear why dozens of residents had congregated at one place carrying sticks.

In a series of tweets, the former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdullah urged the intervention of the Union home minister: “@HMOIndia @rajnathsinghPlease have this investigated urgently & bring the guilty to book.”

Kashmiris are blamed for feeling alienated, Abdullah said, questioning what else can one expect from them when they see fellow Kashmiris treated like this outside the Valley.

However, a Delhi-based Kashmiri journalist insisted the attack on the family had nothing to do with their Kashmiri identity but was only about the feeding of dogs:

In a Facebook post, People for Animals identified the primary victim as a person who looks after strays in the colony. But the NGO also said it believed her religion might have been a factor in the ferocity of the attack:

“An animal lover ‘Azra Muzafar’ and her brother and sister has been brutally beaten by society people yesterday in Siddhartha Extension pocket C, Delhi. She looks after the dogs in the colony and for a long time society people have been planning to kill dogs and animal lovers.

President S N Pandey has issued a letter where he stated that he and other residents will unite together and take action in their “Self Defence”.

Just because they are muslims, they have been harassed and molested for a long time. They have torned their clothes. (sic)

I request you all to help this lady.

Azra and her sister and brother are in a shock, they have got fractures and injuries. MLC was done yesterday.”

When someone posted a comment in response accusing PFA of “creating religious issues”, the NGO responded:

PFA is not creating any religious issue. These colony people have made it themselves. They have filed FIR’s against them for the same reason. They are being molested, harassed everyday for religious reasons and because they feed dogs.

The fact that colony residents had earlier complained to the police and the PMO about the Kashmiri family “harbouring terrorists” and “suspicious people” suggests the ethnicity of the victims might well have been a factor in Thursday’s incident.

The victims too have said that they had been attacked a couple of times earlier as well and were living in fear in the locality for the last seven years.

One of them alleged that they had also asked for police protection on May 2 and given a letter but they did not get any help. They claimed that they have approached the police on earlier occasions but to no avail.

With inputs from PTI