Legal Battle Ahead For UP Muslim Restaurateur Arrested For Selling Chicken In Paper With Hindu Deities (Article-14)

Talib Hussain spent 13 days in jail after being arrested by police in Uttar Pradesh for ‘hurting religious sentiments’: they said he hurt Hindu sentiments by selling chicken—bread, he said—wrapped in a newspaper with advertisements with Hindu deities. Alleging he was forced to sell vegetarian food for a month after his release, Hussain is charged with six crimes under two laws, including attempt to murder. If found guilty, he faces a jail term that could extend to 10 years.

Mohammad Talib with his father Talib Hussain, who spent 13 days in jail after being arrested for selling food in a newspaper with an advertisement of Hindu deities. Photo: Special arrangement

Delhi: For more than 25 years Talib Hussain sold chicken at his eatery—Mehak Restaurant—in Sambhal town, about 350 km northwest of Uttar Pradesh (UP) capital Lucknow, making a living reasonable enough to own his house, a car, a motorcycle and pay for the marriages of four daughters and two sons.

Everything changed on the evening of 3 July 2022, when in a widely reported action (here and here), the local police picked him up from his restaurant, following a complaint by a police officer, who accused him of hurting religious sentiments by selling chicken wrapped in newspaper printed with an advertisement carrying images of Hindu deities.

The first information report (FIR) filed against Hussain, 60, said after locals summoned police, they found a stack of 70 papers torn from the 3 April edition of Hindustan, a Hindi daily, some of which apparently were printed with the advertisements in question, commemorating Navratri, the Hindu new year.

“Iss karya ko dekh kar majood bheed restaurant ke maalik se kaafi krodit hai aur keh rahi hai ki isse hamari dharmik bhaavnaoon ko chot pahunchahi hai (After seeing this, the crowd at the restaurant are quite angry at the owner of the restaurant, and they say their religious sentiments have been hurt),” said the FIR, filed by a police officer.

No one came forward to file a complaint or be a witness, police sub-inspector Ajay Kumar Tyagi was quoted as saying in The Print, a website, on 6 July 2022.

So, Tyagi filed the complaint, even though the arrival of the police appeared linked to a tweet from the vice president of the youth wing of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which said: “In Sambhal, Mehak Restaurant is packing chicken with newspapers that have photos of Gods. There are around 100 newspapers. The administration should take strict action.”

When the police started inquiries, Hussain, the police alleged in the FIR, suddenly took out an “illegal knife” from his counter and attacked them with the “intention to kill us police folk”.

The FIR charges him with the possession of illegal firearms, and in a video of his arrest, Hussain is seen peacefully accompanying two policemen on a motorcycle. The FIR says he cooperated with police after he was disarmed.

Charged under six sections of two laws, including attempt to murder, Hussain faces a long, legal battle. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years imprisonment. He alleged harassment by the police after he was released on bail, which a senior local official denied.

No Harassment, Says District Magistrate

A local judge granted Hussain bail and he was released on 19 July 2020 after 13 days of incarceration. After release, Hussain told Article 14, he sold only vegetarian food—paneer, vegetables and dal—for nearly a month.

“After I resumed my business, the police visited my shop three times and asked me to sell only vegetarian food,” said Hussain, who alleged he was singled out for such attention. He agreed, Hussain said, saying he reminded them on successive visits that he was selling only vegetarian food.

Hussain said no other restaurant was asked to shut down, “despite assurances from the DM (district magistrate) no one would harass me”.

Sambhal district magistrate Manish Bansal told Article 14  that no complaints of police harassment had come to his  notice.

This story was originally published in . Read the full story here