2 killed, several including 9 cops hurt in violence during Assam eviction drive
Two civilians were killed and several others including 9 policemen were injured in violence during an eviction drive in Assam’s Darrang district on Thursday afternoon.
According to police, a mob of nearly 2000 people attacked the police team during the eviction drive following which police resorted to baton charge and firing that resulted in the death and injuries.
Several videos of residents targeting the police team and police personnel firing at civilians and beating them with batons have been doing the rounds on social media following the incident. A photographer present at the scene is seen kicking an injured civilian lying at the scene in one video.
“Police are doing their duty. As per my information, people attacked the police with machetes, spears and other things. Eviction has restarted (after violence) and will continue tomorrow as well,” chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma told journalists in Guwahati.
A similar eviction drive was carried out in two villages in the Garukhuti area of Dholpur on Monday in which nearly 800 families who were settled on nearly 4500 ‘bighas’ of government land were evicted. There was no violence on Monday. Residents of these areas mostly comprise of Bengali speaking Muslims.
The areas where the eviction drive is taking place are part of Assam government’s Garukhuti Project, which aims to remove encroachers from 77,420 ‘bighas’ of land and start agricultural and allied activities for indigenous youth.
This year’s state budget mentioned that the government plans to “develop this cluster as a beacon of resurgent Assam” and earmarked ₹9.6 crore for it.
“As per the government plan of removing encroachers from the area, we have been carrying out evictions in four zones. While the process is taking place peacefully in other three zones, violence erupted at the fourth zone on Thursday,” Sushanta Biswa Sarma, superintendent of police, Darrang said.
He mentioned that nearly 1500-2000 people had gathered at the area. At first there was no issue, but when police started removing encroachments using JCB vehicles, the mob started pelting stones and attacking the police with machetes, spears and other things.
“One police officer was hit with a machete on his head and sustained serious injuries. We had to resort to firing to disperse the crowd and protect our personnel. As per our information, two civilians have been killed and 9 policemen were injured. Additional force was deployed in the area and the situation is under control now,” said Sarma.
Opposition Congress condemned the police firing on residents and termed the eviction drive carried out during the pandemic as inhuman and violation of Supreme Court directives.
“SC had given a directive against eviction during pandemic situation, yet the Assam government is behaving in an autocratic manner to evict the residents of Dholpur who have been living in the area since the 1970’s. Before eviction government should have arranged for rehabilitation and alternative housing,” state Congress president Bhupen Kumar Borah said.
“These residents are mostly cultivators and their source of sustenance is being attacked. A government’s job is to work for welfare of people and not create problems for people by making them homeless. Congress warns the BJP government not to indulge in actions that will turn Assam into a police state,” he added.