Sipajhar clash

Guwahati: In a late-night development, Assam Police have arrested photographer Bijoy Sankar Bania who was seen trampling a man presumed to be dead during Thursday’s eviction drive in Gorukhuti Village under Sipajhar revenue circle in Darrang district.

In a video that went viral, Bijoy Sankar Baniya was also seen throwing punches on the already-dead protester.

Following that the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) was entrusted with probing the incident after the video of the photographer jumping on the body led to widespread condemnation.

Two persons were killed in police firing when a huge crowd obstructed the police and local administration from carrying out a massive eviction drive at Gorukhuti village in Assam’s Darrang district on Thursday morning.

The incident has prompted the Assam government to order a judicial probe into the causes and circumstances leading to the police firing.

YouTube video

An official release said the state home and political department will order for a judicial probe into the incident by a retired judge of Gauhati High Court.

On Monday, an eviction drive was carried out at No 1 Dholpur and No 3 Dholpur to free 4,500 bighas of government land that was occupied by nearly 800 families.

According to eyewitness account, villagers of No 3 Dholpur staged a protest against the police and revenue officials when they arrived in the area for the eviction drive on Thursday morning.

The irate villagers also pelted stones on police personnel, which was led by Darrang Superintendent of Police Sushanta Biswa Sarma.

“The protesters tried to attack police personnel with blunt weapons, forcing the police to resort to bursting of tear gas shells and fire rubber bullets,” said a senior police official

Police said as the situation went out of control, they had to shoot live rounds in the air to disperse the protesters but it didn’t deter them.

Two persons, identified as Saddam Hussain and Sheikh Farid, were killed in police firing. Several others, including 12 police personnel, were injured in the incident, the official said.

One police officer, Maniruddin Ahmed, has reportedly sustained severe injuries and he was rushed to Gauhati Medical College & Hospital (GMCH) in a critical condition.

Darrang SP Sushanta Biswa Sarma said nine police personnel were injured in the attack. “So far, I have received information that two protesters were injured in police firing and they were rushed to hospital. Update will come,” the SP said.

Congress attacks Assam govt

Condemning the police firing, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi took to his official Twitter handle saying, “Assam is on state-sponsored fire. I stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the state- no children of India deserve this.”

Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) president Bhupen Kumar Borah strongly condemned the police firing on protesters of Dholpur area and claimed that the very act of eviction is itself inhuman especially during the Covid situation.

“The Supreme Court had also given a directive against eviction during the pandemic. Yet the Assam government, led by CM Himanta Biswa Sarma, has remained adamant, behaving in an autocratic manner to evict the residents of Dholpur who have been living in the area since the 1970’s,” said Borah.

“Before eviction, the government should have arranged for rehabilitation and alternative housing. The people in the area have been subjected to harassment repeatedly by the BJP government since they came to power in 2016. Without alternative arrangements for land and housing where will these poor people go and how will they survive? They are mostly cultivators and their source of sustenance is being attacked,” the Congress leader said.

“A government’s job is to work for the welfare of people and not create problems for people by making them homeless. The Congress party warns the BJP government to not indulge in actions that will turn Assam into a police state,” Borah added.

Meanwhile, the state BJP has urged all opposition political parties to refrain from politicising the Gorukhuti incident and said these people were encroachers and that they have been asked to leave the place on several occasions.

“They refused to obey the government’s order. They are doing it at the behest of third force. The police officials tried to pacify them prior to the eviction drive. But the encroachers rejected it and created a chaotic situation, forcing the police to fire upon them,” state BJP spokesperson and MP Kamakhya Prasad Tasa said in a statement here.

“We do not want death of any person. But whoever resists the welfare works of the government will definitely be treated as criminals. Our government will never compromise with criminals,” Tasa added.

Also read: Assam is on state-sponsored fire: Rahul Gandhi on Sipajhar

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