Viral video shows a cameraman stomping on the body of a protestor shot by police.
Two persons were killed and 11 others, including nine policemen, injured when a large mob clashed with the police during an eviction drive in northern Assam’s Darrang district on Thursday afternoon.
The incident happened at Dholpur 3, one of four areas the police had targeted for evicting about 800 families of Bengali-speaking Muslims “illegally occupying” about 4,500 bighas of government land. A similar eviction drive on September 20 had passed off peacefully, with some families dismantling their houses and moving elsewhere, officials said.
“Two civilians are probably dead and two more injured, along with nine police personnel. A mob of not less than 4,000 resisted the eviction drive by throwing stones at the police and attacking them with sharpened bamboo sticks,” Darrang’s Superintendent of Police, Sushanta Biswa Sarma, told The Hindu.
One of the injured policemen was rushed to the Gauhati Medical College and Hospital, about 60 km away, while the other injured were admitted to the district hospital.
Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said the police had to take action as the mob attacked them with sticks, machetes and spears. He said the eviction drive would continue on Friday.
The Bharatiya Janata Party-led government had recently decided to use the land for agricultural purposes after evicting the settlers.
The incident attracted flak. Many reacted to a viral video showing a cameraman stomping on the body of a man shot by the police.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted: “Assam is on state-sponsored fire. I stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the State – no children of India deserve this”.
CPI (M-L) politburo member Kavita Krishnan questioned the police firing. “What protocol orders firing to the chest of a lone man coming running with a stick @DGPAssamPolice @assampolice? Who is the man in civil clothes with a camera who repeatedly jumps with bloodthirsty hate on the body of the fallen (probably dead) man?” she asked, sharing the video of the incident on Twitter.
The man holding the camera was said to be working with the district administration.
Rafiqul Islam, an MLA of minority-based All-India United Democratic Front, blamed the Chief Minister for planning the drive to please Nagpur. “Eviction for cultivation is fine but it should have been done after rehabilitating these landless people,” he said.
State Congress president Bhupen Kumar Borah condemned the “barbaric act” of the police.
“The very act of eviction is itself inhuman, especially during the COVID situation. The Supreme Court had given a directive against eviction during the pandemic, yet the Assam government has remained adamant behaving in an autocratic manner to evict the residents who have been living in the area since the 1970s,” he said.
Mr. Borah said the government should have arranged for rehabilitation and alternative housing ahead of the eviction drive.
Raijor Dal, Akhil Gogoi’s party, too slammed the government for the “inhuman crackdown” to further the “Hindutva agenda” of the government.
The BJP’s national general secretary Dilip Saikia defended the police and said the people were served notices before the drive. The area falls under the Mangaldoi Lok Sabha constituency he represents.
“These are Bangladeshi nationals. They settled there a few years ago after grabbing government land,” Mr. Saikia said.
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