Assam police confirmed the arrest of Photographer Bijay Shankar Baniya. In a viral video, he was seen attacking the protestor at Dholpur Gorukhuti area of Darrang District. According to sources he was hired by Darrang District Administration.
On Thursday afternoon during an eviction drive in Assam’s Darang district, two civilians were killed and several others, including 9 policemen, were injured in violence.
According to police, a mob of about 2,000 people attacked the police team during the eviction operation, after which police resorted to baton charges and firing, killing and injuring them.
Several videos of targeting residents, the police team and the police personnel are firing on civilians and beating them with batons have been circulating on social media since the incident.
In a video shows a photographer at the scene kicking an injured civilian lying.
In Guwahati chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma told journalists; “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.”
On Monday a similar eviction drive was carried in two villages in the Garukhuti area of Dholpur , evicting about 800 families who had settled on about 4500 ‘bighas’ government lands.
On Monday there was no violence. The inhabitants of these areas are mostly comprise of Bengali-speaking Muslims.
The areas where the eviction drive is underway are part of the Assam government’s Garukhuti project, which aims to remove encroachments on 77,420 ‘bighas’ lands and start agricultural and allied activities for local youth.
This year’s state budget mentioned that the government intends to “develop this cluster as a beacon of resurgent Assam” and has set aside Rs 9.6 crore for it.
Superintendent of Darrang police, Sushanta Biswa Sarma said; “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,”
About 1,500-2,000 people had gathered in the area, he said.
At the first there was no problem, but when the police started removing the encroachments using JCB vehicles, the mob started throwing stones and attacked the police with machetes, spears and other items.
Sarma said; “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.”
The opposition Congress condemned the police firing on the residents and termed the eviction drive carried out during the epidemic as a violation of humanitarian and Supreme Court directives.
State Congress president, Bhupen Kumar Borah said; “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,”
Bhupen Kumar Borah added ; “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.”