|The agitated crowd in Dhaligaon on Sunday and (right) Rakibul Hussain comes down from the stage. Telegraph pictures
Kokrajhar, April 28: Assam forest minister Rakibul Hussain today faced the ire of a mob and was pelted with chappals, shoes, empty water bottles and stones during a meeting of the All-Assam Minorities Students’ Union, at Bartola of Dhaligaon in Chirang district.
Thousands of people threw bottles and stones towards the stage where the minister was delivering a speech during the open session of the union’s 33rd annual convention at Shahid Mizanur Rahman Field.
Chief minister Tarun Gogoi had been invited as chief guest. Hussain had attended the meeting on his behalf.
Hussain’s speech mentioned that Badruddin Ajmal was never a sympathiser of the minorities, adding that during the BTAD riots, Ajmal incited people with his speeches.
The speech did not go down well with a section of people at the meeting and they started throwing empty bottles and chappals. Sources said many persons present at the meeting were supporters of Ajmal and resented Hussain’s speech.
The meeting was disrupted for a short time because of this incident. However, Hussain continued his speech and managed to complete it as the shoe-pelting continued.
He then returned to his car escorted by police.
Amir Uddin Khan, vice-chancellor of Global University, Chandan Sarkar, MLA of South Abhayapuri constituency and Zakir Hussein, editor of Dainik Gana Adhikar (An Assamese daily) newspaper) were also onstage.
The secretary of the students’ union, Rezaul Karim Sarkar, said this was a political matter. “What Hussain said was political and the people reacted accordingly. The union has nothing to do with the matter,” he said.
Hussain told reporters that it was a normal experience for him to face public anger as a politician. “A section of the public did not agree with my speech during the rally. But I felt bad that they became unruly and broke the decorum of the function,” he said.
However, other sources did not entirely rule out the possibility of the attack on Hussain being instigated by a section of Congressmen.
“We are a divided house, no matter how much we try to project otherwise. In such situations, the likelihood of groups trying to embarrass each other to gain inches and move ahead is always very high,” a Congress leader said, not wanting to be named.
The AIUDF has been gaining in strength ever since the party made its electoral debut in the state in 2006.
From 10 seats on debut, it went on to increase its tally to 18 in the 2011 Assembly election. The party has also won a Lok Sabha seat, with Ajmal making it to Delhi from Dhubri.
“The Congress knows what we are capable of and hence wastes no opportunity to attack us like the minister did today. I certainly don’t condone what the agitated people did in reaction, but at the same time the Congress must recognise the writing on the wall,” a senior AIUDF leader said.
There is a division within the Congress over the AIUDF with a section in favour of extending the olive branch and another vehemently opposed to any truck with the “fundamental” party.
However, the AIUDF is with the UPA at the Centre.