Popular Assam singer-composer Zubeen Garg, one of the leading faces of the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests in the state, was on Wednesday night allegedly abused by a group of youths “with beer bottles in hand” following reports about his “growing proximity” to the BJP-led government.
Zubeen, 48, in his FIR at Dispur police station said six youths stopped him at around 12.40am in the Ganesh Mandir area while he was on his way home. The six of them came out of a car, in violation of the ongoing Covid lockdown, beer bottles in hand. When he tried to defend himself against the verbal abuse, they “became aggressive and used unparliamentary language”. In his FIR, Zubeen also sought an inquiry into the incident.
One of the youths involved in the incident is said to be the NSUI’s city unit vice-president Hirakjyoti Rajbongshi. Assam PCC president Ripun Bora told The Telegraph on Thursday that Rajbongshi has been suspended since his name came up during the investigation. “We cannot support such acts and want all the guilty to be punished,” Bora said.
The verbal assault against Zubeen, who also has several Bollywood hits, including Ya Ali (Gangster) and Dil tu hi batta (Krrish 3), comes less than a week of the agriculture department announcing plans to make him a brand ambassador because as a youth icon he could attract the younger generation towards agri and allied activities.
The move had triggered a backlash on social media because he was seen as “giving up” on a cause he had led from the front for months before the anti-CAA movement turned violent in December.
Rajya Sabha MP Ajit Kumar Bhuyan, another leading anti-CAA face, was among those who criticised Zubeen for his growing proximity to the BJP-led government which supports the CAA, which many in the state see as a threat to the culture and identity of the state.
When contacted, Zubeen’s wife, Garima Garg, a fashion designer, said he has not accepted any offer. “We met the agriculture department people because Zubeen wanted to do something for the agriculture sector but he has not accepted any brand ambassador offer. He is very upset with last night’s development,” she said.
An aide of Zubeen told the media that although there was no physical assault on him, the youths taunted him with “letting Assam down” and for getting close to the ruling BJP.
Support from Zubeen came from the government, the Opposition and AASU.
Condemning the incident, government spokesperson Himanta Biswa Sarma said, “I don’t want to see Zubeen in the BJP or the Congress or in the government. Zubeen should concentrate on protecting the culture of Assam and earn laurels for the state. Let us keep him away from controversies and politics. Let Zubeen stay as Zubeen. We all have to protect Zubeen.”
Senior Congress leader and Lok Sabha MP, Pradyut Bordoloi, said Zubeen is “an emotional person but his intentions are honourable. If he has approached the government to do something for Assam, there is nothing wrong in it,” Bordoloi said.
AASU general secretary Lurinjyoti Gogoi, too, condemned the “attack on Zubeenda”.