Opposition parties, activists target Assam govt. over deaths during eviction

The Congress party condemned the violence. “Assam, like the rest of India, is burning because of the hatred BJP is spreading,” it tweeted.
Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.(PTI Photo)
Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.(PTI Photo)
Updated on Sep 24, 2021 03:54 AM IST
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The killing of two people during an eviction drive in Assam triggered a political storm on Thursday as Opposition parties and activists targeted the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government and the administration hit back, blaming a thousands-strong mob for the deadly violence.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted that the state of Assam was on “state sponsored fire. “I stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the state- no children of India deserve this,” he said.

The Congress party condemned the violence. “Assam, like the rest of India, is burning because of the hatred BJP is spreading,” it tweeted.

Chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, however, backed the police action.“Police are doing their duty. As per my information, people attacked police with machetes, spears and other things,” he said, making it clear that the eviction drive will continue on Friday.

The political tug-of-war came hours after police bullets allegedly killed two people, and at least nine policemen were injured in clashes during a controversial drive to evict “illegal settlers” in Assam’s Darrang district.

Police said a mob of nearly 2,000 people attacked personnel during the eviction drive at Dholpur village in Sipajhar, forcing security men to lathi charge the crowd and open fire, resulting in the deaths and injuries. But local residents and Opposition members blamed the police for the violence and alleged that one villager was shot at point-blank range.

The eviction drive was being conducted in a region largely inhabited by Bengali-speaking Muslims.

“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,” state Congress president Bhupen Kumar Borah said.

Former MP Sushmita Dev, who recently quit the Congress for the Trinamool Congress, said, “Is this really happening in Assam ? @CMOfficeAssam Is this the new model of governance?”

All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) condemned the incident and termed it as unfortunate and barbaric. The party said that the government should have given adequate time to the residents and offered them alternate measures before forcing them out.

“The process could have been carried out in an amicable manner. But chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma seeks to get sadistic pleasure by targeting innocent civilians. Assam seems to be turning into a police state with no rule of law. People of the state are watching and will give a befitting reply in due time,” said AIUDF organising secretary Md. Aminul Islam.

Sivasagar MLA and president of Raijor Dal, Akhil Gogoi, demanded the eviction drive be stopped immediately and alternate housing provided to those evicted earlier.

The controversial eviction was first mooted when Sarma visited the area on June 7 and instructed the district administration to clear the area occupied by “illegal settlers” for a community farming project for young people hailing from the state’s indigenous communities.

Activists also said that the local residents were living in the area since the 1970s and demanded adequate rehabilitation processes.

“Encroachment of government land is illegal. But government should give enough time to residents before carrying out evictions. From a humane point of view, alternate arrangements like a rehabilitation package, housing and other basic necessities should have been ensured before taking drastic measures,” activist Dibyajyoti Saikia said.

These families had been residing in the area for 40-50 years, said Saddam Hussain, another activist and local resident.

Ainuddin Ahmed, an adviser to the All Assam Muslim Students Union (AAMSU) who was present when violence broke out on Thursday, termed it as pre-planned attack on Muslims by the state’s BJP-led government.

“All this was planned and part of communal politics of CM Sarma targeting Muslims. The government must announce a rehabilitation package for all residents or else we will not perform last rites of the deceased and intensify protests. The deputy commissioner of Darrang and the superintendent of police, who is the CM’s brother, should be removed and their roles in Thursday’s incident investigated by an independent agency,” he said.

The BJP dismissed the charges and said the police acted in self defence.

“We have to understand that these people were staying in government land illegally for years. They were given notice and also assured about some alternate measures. But today they took law into their own hands and police had no option but to resort to firing in self-defence. Government has already ordered an inquiry and it will reveal the truth,” said Assam BJP spokesperson Rupam Goswami.

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Thursday, December 02, 2021