A scuffle between two groups over property issues was portrayed by an entrepreneur as a ‘jihadi attack’ by Muslims because of her restaurant serving ‘non-Halal’ food. And the right wing played it up.

Entrepreneur Tushara Ajith, wearing a blue sari, stands near a board that reads, "Non-halal restaurant" in Kerala
news Controversy Thursday, October 28, 2021 - 20:36

How does a dispute over property ownership become a communal problem? You involve a ‘non-Halal’ restaurant board, bring in the president of a political party’s state unit, and call minorities Islamophobic names. "Strongly condemn the attack against Smt.Thushara Ajith. A group of Muslim fanatics brutally attacked the woman entrepreneur due to non-compliance of Halal in her hotel. What happened in Kakkanad is nothing less than Talibanism. I urge the people of Kerala to reject #HalalInvasion," tweeted K Surendran, BJP chief of Kerala on October 25.

Except, no Muslims have been arrested in the incident.

Tushara Ajith is an entrepreneur who got famous for starting a ‘non-Halal’ restaurant in Ernakulam. Recently, she posted seven live videos on her Facebook page, claiming she was assaulted by ‘jihadis’ for starting a non-Halal restaurant in Kochi’s Kakkanad, and serving pork. She also alleged that the police are against her and are helping the accused in the case.

After Tushara made this claim, Surendran and other BJP leaders, Sangh Parivar sympathisers, and some fundamental Christian groups, made several communally coloured remarks on social media about ‘jihadi invasion through halal food’; but the truth it seems is a completely different animal. And neither Tushara nor Janam TV, which broke this news of communal attack, have revealed the names of the people who allegedly assaulted her: Nakul and Benoy, one a Hindu and the other a Christian.

The incident — a scuffle between different groups according to the police — happened on the evening of October 24. There’s a civil dispute over the ownership of a commercial building in Kakkanad, between two people called Varghese and Jayasree. The case is in court. Tushara rented space in the building for the second branch of her ‘non-Halal’ eatery, from Jayasree, six months ago. But because of the ownership dispute, there are multiple claims over who can use which space.

According to the Infopark police, Tushara had earlier filed a complaint of theft from her eatery. “She complained that some of her furniture was taken away by other shop owners who were working out of the building. But we couldn't find any evidence of it. So we asked her to bring the bills,” Infopark Circle Inspector Santhosh tells TNM.

Meanwhile, there was a scuffle between her and Nakul — one of the other shop owners — over a chaat stand that Tushara wanted to place outside the eatery. “When Nakul questioned the placement of the stand, Tushara slapped him and it became a clash. Benoy, who runs another store there, got involved. And both Benoy and Nakul have alleged that they were assaulted by Tushara, her husband Ajith, and two other accomplices,” the Circle Inspector says, adding that while Tushara has filed a complaint against Nakul and Benoy over the incident, there’s no mention of jihad or Halal in her complaint. "When she shouted on her videos, she claimed it was a ‘jihadi attack’ over the non-Halal board. But in the official complaint she hasn't mentioned this," he adds.

"Basically, there exists a multi partite civil dispute over leases, sub leases, etc. The scuffles, the alleged theft of furniture items etc, are over claiming rights of the commercial space," Kochi city police commissioner Nagaraju Chakilam tells TNM. "Complaints given at the police station are all indicative of the above and any other versions getting circulated in social media are just to pressurise and channel police action for or against a particular party," he adds, confirming that there is no communal angle as portrayed by Tushara and others on social media.

Currently, Nakul and Benoy are in hospital with injuries on their legs. Police have registered two cases in the issue, one against Tushara, her husband and two accomplices under section 326 (voluntarily causing grievous injury by dangerous weapons) of the Indian Penal Code; and the other against Benoy and Nakul for misbehaving with Tushara, as per her complaint.

Tushara Ajith was in news a few months as she started an eatery in Kochi keeping a non halal board outside it. She was praised by Sangh Parivar sympathisers for the initiative. She was planning to start a second outlet of the eatery in Kakkanad of Kochi, where the reported incident happened.

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