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Wednesday, Oct 05, 2022

‘My father is innocent; we don’t use newspapers to pack meat, only rotis rolled in them’

As per the FIR, police said they were patrolling the streets when they learnt from an informer that Talib Hussain was wrapping meat in old newspapers with photos of Hindu deities.

Sambhal, Sambhal Police, Uttar Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh news, Lucknow, Lucknow news, Indian Express, India news, current affairs, Indian Express News Service, Express News Service, Express News, Indian Express India NewsTabish Hussain at his father’s restaurant. Express

There were only a handful of customers at Mehak Restaurant in Sambhal, Uttar Pradesh, on Thursday afternoon. But the alarm among the staff could be sensed easily — they checked each newspaper piece carefully before wrapping food in it.

At the billing desk, the restaurant owner’s son, Mohammed Tabish, 31, kept a hawk’s eye on all customers to avoid any uncalled-for attention on the small eatery.

It was four days since Sambhal Police arrested Tabish’s father, Talib Hussain, 58, for allegedly hurting religious sentiments by selling chicken wrapped in newspapers that had images of Hindu deities. According to the FIR, Talib also attacked a police team with a knife.

At the restaurant, Tabish denied the allegation strongly: “We don’t sell chicken wrapped in newspaper — we have aluminum foils and bags for that. We give only rotis wrapped in newspaper…. We are not insulting any God.”

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Tabish added, “My father is an innocent man; he has been running a restaurant for more than 30 years. No one has ever complained about us. The case has no merit.”

Sambhal Police booked Talib under IPC Sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups), 295A (outraging religious feelings), 353 (assaulting public servant) and 307 (attempted murder).

As per the FIR, police said they were patrolling the streets when they learnt from an informer that Talib was wrapping meat in old newspapers with photos of Hindu deities.

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The FIR states, quoting the police: “We asked the owner about the newspapers and deities. He got angry and pulled out a knife and tried to attack us with the intent to kill us. We saved ourselves and managed to get hold of the knife. We overpowered him and caught him…”

It is not a bailable offence. Talib is in prison.

Family members and restaurant staff, however, denied the allegations and called it a concocted story.

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“I have worked with Talib for 10-15 years at the restaurant and have never seen him misbehave with anyone,” Abdul Rashid, 50, a staffer, said. “On Sunday, police came while we were working and started asking questions. We were all scared but Talib cooperated.”

Emphasising that Talib “did not attack anyone”, unlike what the police claim in the FIR, Abdul said, “Also, there’s no knife kept at the billing desk.”

Talib’s nephew, Shahnawaz, and other staff at the restaurant said they are scared now. They carefully remove any image of any God from newspapers used at the eatery to avoid any accusation. “What if the police come again? Anything can happen,” Shahnawaz said.

Refusing to be named, several shopkeepers in the area said Talib is innocent, and that he did not attack the police.

The FIR quotes the police saying that an informer had led them to the shop. Incidentally, Himanshu Kashyap, a member of Bhartiya Janta Yuva Morcha, had posted a tweet with the same allegations against Talib around 8.40 pm on Sunday — half-an-hour before his arrest.

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Kashyap’s tweet [translated from Hindi] stated, “In Sambhal, Mehak Restaurant is packing chicken with newspapers which have photos of Gods. There are around 100 newspapers. The administration should take strict action.”

Sambhal police replied to the tweet stating that the accused had been arrested and “legal action is being taken”.

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Asked about Kashyap and his tweet, senior police officers refused to comment. One officer said, on the condition of anonymity: “There were many people standing outside Talib’s restaurant. The man had a huge knife, which he used to attack us. We only acted after seeing the crowd.”

No one was hurt in the purported attack.

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Stating that the bail hearing is next week, Talib’s lawyer Iqdadar Hussain Pasha said: “A man is being targeted for being a Muslim. Police are writing fiction in the FIR to harass him. How can an old man attack a group of young policemen in a crowded market? We have challenged Section 307 [in the FIR, dealing with attempted murder].”

The family, which lives about a couple of kilometres from the restaurant, is meanwhile hoping for his quick release — Talib lives with his wife and six children.

Anees, Talib’s younger brother, said, “Tabish (Talib’s son) is handling everything now (at the restaurant). We didn’t know this would happen to us. We live in fear. On Sunday, Tabish was in Delhi with his wife; Talib’s younger son was in Moradabad. We received information about his arrest late at night.”

Anees said he tried to reason with the police, “but they didn’t listen. I couldn’t understand the reason. They also closed our restaurant for two days. Customers and the staff are scared to come there…”

First published on: 08-07-2022 at 03:44:26 am
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