The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Minority front heat on Gogoi
- Apology sought for ‘harassing’ leader

Nagaon/Guwahati, Nov. 10: The United Minorities Front (UMF) of Assam today accused police of “harassing” the Amir-e-Shariat, the religious head of the Muslims of the Northeast, on suspicion that he was a militant. The party demanded an unconditional apology from Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi.

UMF president Hafiz Rashid Ahmed Choudhury claimed at a public meeting in Nagaon that Khairul Islam, who is also the vice-president of the state Jamait, and one of his aides were “detained for over six hours and interrogated like a criminal” by the police at Sarupathar in Golaghat district. The alleged incident took place on October 25, but no complaints were lodged.

The UMF demanded punishment to the Sarupathar sub-divisional police officer and threatened to boycott all MLAs and ministers from the minority community till the government comes up with an apology.

Choudhury said the police did not offer a chair to the mufti and his aide, Abdul Mannan, even after they revealed their identities. The UMF leader alleged a “plan by the administration to repeat the mass and indiscriminate deportation of Muslim people to erstwhile East Pakistan in 1965”.

The incident comes amid heightened security in the state in view of a RAW warning about Bangladesh-based forces, backed by the ISI, trying to foment trouble in the state.

Sarupathar sub-divisional police officer Mahesh Sharma said Islam and Mannan had been “brought in” for questioning and that they did not reveal their identities till the interrogation was over. “When they said that they were going to Bajalbari, about 15 km off Sarupathar, we became suspicious as we had specific information about ISI activity in that remote area. So we brought them to the Sarupathar police station for questioning,” the police official said over telephone.

Claiming that the duo had been detained at the police station from 8 pm to 11.30 pm as their identities could not be ascertained immediately, he said, “We immediately let them off after some villagers identified Islam as the mufti of Assam. Had they revealed their identities at the very beginning, there would have been no problem at all.”

The police official also said there were specific instructions from higher authorities to remain vigilant in the wake of intelligence inputs that the ISI’s activities were increasing in the border areas. Sarupathar is close to the Assam-Nagaland border.

For the Tarun Gogoi government, the UMF allegation comes at a time when the minority community, which has so long thrown its weight behind the Congress, has started voicing its displeasure regarding the state government’s alleged anti-minority activities.

At a recent meeting of the PCC’s minority cell, Gogoi was engaged in a verbal duel with influential minority leader and Congress MP Golam Osmani. The chief minister left the meeting in a huff after Osmani accused him of not responding to the demands raised by the cell.

Several Congress leaders had alleged that people of the minority community were being “harassed” by security forces in the name of operations against “fundamentalist” organisations.

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