Days after a troupe of 42 dancers was molested in Asolpora in Assam’s Chaygaon district, the victims are grappling with the horrific ordeal they endured on the night of June 7. The National Commission for Women has taken suo moto cognizance of the incident.
“Most of the girls, college students between the ages of 17 and 18, are still in shock. They are trying to come to terms with what happened that night,” says the manager of the dance group from a town near Guwahati.
On June 7, the group was invited to perform in Chamaria town for what they were told would be a Bihu function. However, when they began performing, the female dancers were allegedly asked to strip by the crowd of 700. When they did not comply, the mob chased them and physically assaulted them.
The Assam police has so far arrested six persons in connection to the case — Shahrukh Khan, Subhan Khan, Rehmat Ali, Nizamuddin, Attiqul Islam and Sanjoy Choudhry — after the troupe manager filed an FIR at Chaygaon police station on June 8.
“We do not know who organised the event, the investigations are still on,” said Rupam Hazarika, in-charge of Chaygaon police station, adding that they were made aware of the incident on the night of June 7 itself. “We rushed there and helped rescue the dancers,” he said.
However, by the time the police arrived, the situation had already got out of hand. “They were literally chasing us on the road and we had to run for our lives. We finally locked ourselves in the car before driving,” said the manager, who started the dance group about 12 years ago.
The group has about 120 dancers (comprising boys and girls) and describes themselves as a “modern dance group”. “We do Bollywood and Hollywood songs, modern Assamese songs as well as traditional folk dances,” said the manager, adding that the group mostly performs at Bihu functions and takes part in local dance competitions in and around their village.
In the aftertoon of June 7, the group manager received a call from one Sanjoy Choudhry, who connected him to a man called Kuddas Ali. “The latter then invited us to do a dance performance at Chamaria on the same night and said they would pay us Rs 37,000,” states the FIR. The troupe, along with another dance group, set off for Chamaria at 8 pm on June 7.
“When we reached the designated spot, we saw that there was nothing happening there. Kuddas Ali then called us and guided us to a more ‘remote’ location. We followed,” said the manager. He recalls being called into an enclosure made of a tin roof. “Some men then pushed the girls to the stage and said ‘dance’. I knew something was off but the crowd was so big and it was intimidating. So I asked my group to start dancing,” he said.
When they began performing to a Bollywood number, some people in the crowd jeered and asked “What kind of dance is this?” and demanded they do “disco”.
One of the men then showed the manager a video clip of a strip dance on his phone. “They were all dirty songs. ‘We want this’ they told me. We had begun to panic by then but I asked my group to remain calm — we were outnumbered by them,” said manager, who on the sly, alerted the police.
But it was too late: the crowd started pulling at the girls’ clothes and touching them. “They were in the mood to attack — many of the girls started crying. In the meantime, I managed to break a bit of the tin enclosure and we ran for our lives,” said the manager. “The crowd chased us but we managed to get in the car and leave.” The group reached home at 3 am the next day.
The FIR also states that the group later learnt that the organisers had collected money from the public by telling them that they had hired a group of strip dancers from Cooch Behar, West Bengal to perform.
On June 11, many organisations, including the All Rabha Students’ Union, the All Assam Students’ Union, as well as school and college students, participated in a joint rally to condemn the incident.