Guwahati: A day after a horrific video clip of the Assam police shooting a protester in a village during an eviction drive shook the country, citizens appealed to join a meeting on September 24, which was initially planned on the eviction drives. They effectively turned it into a protest meeting over what had taken place.
Amidst ongoing massive eviction drives, which activists say are targeted at Bengali Muslims, the police shot a man on September 23 at Dholpur Gorukhuti in Darrang district of Assam. A video of the police firing and one civilian photographer jumping over the fallen, injured man on the verge of death went viral. The photographer was also seen hitting the man. Netizens in Assam expressed horror and grief at the sight of the video on social media platforms.
After receiving flak on social media, the Assam Police on Thursday evening said they have arrested and registered a case against the photographer who desecrated the body of the protestor killed in the firing
As the police drew heavy flak online for the incident, the protest meeting was about to take place. The administration made attempts to disrupt the protest meet. On the morning of September 24, the organisers were told that the police were not giving permission for the event.
“One person from Gauri Sadan (where the meet was scheduled) called me and said that police turned up and asked them to stop the event,” said Kashyap Choudhury to Newsclick. Choudhury, state president of the Students’ Federation of India (SFI), was among the organisers of the event.
“The police even told the person in-charge at Gauri Sadan that if the programme is held, then he would be charged. While asking, one police personnel said that this has been done to control the situation after the firing took place. Later on, some hundreds of people gathered and we managed to organise our protest meet at the Guwahati Press Club,” he further said.
The protest meet was attended by activists, leaders of several parties and organisations such as the Communist Party of India (CPI), Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)], Communist Party of India (Marxist Leninist) [CPI(ML)], Raijor Dal, SFI, All India Students Association (AISA), along with some noted personalities of Assam.
Well-known social scientist Hiren Gohain, who could not be present at the meeting due to his ailments, sent a written statement addressing the gathering. In his statement, Gohain said, “The saffron governments at Delhi and Dispur are serving to quench the thirst of big corporates to accumulate endless wealth along with putting the country on fire with divisive politics of Hindutva. The ongoing evictions are reflections of this, where the people living on the sandbar and earning hand to mouth for many years are evicted overnight. Wherever there is an attempt to attack the life and livelihoods of common people to fulfill the desire of big corporates, there is always communally divisive politics being played. We demand that the evictions are stopped right away condemning the government for its inhuman act.”
The gathering was also addressed by some of the victims of the eviction drives in the Dholpur Gorukhuti area under Sipajhar circle.
Addressing the meeting, Souradeep Dey of HRLN (Human Rights Law Network) said his organisation was planning to file a PIL (public interest litigation) in the Supreme Court against the evictions. He also said that he and his organisation stand in solidarity with the victims.
Santanu Borthakur, advocate at the Gauhati High Court and the counsel for the petitioners who appealed at the high court for a stay order of the evictions, said in the meeting, “The legal battle is only a part of the greater struggle that the people will now have to carry on. The political fight is the most important part, it’s the fight to combat communal polarisation and ruthless tortures meted out on the people.”
Haider Hussain, a noted journalist and a social activist, said, “It is the time to start a valiant fight against BJP and RSS. Today’s protest meet is just a beginning. We urgently need to organise people against the divisive forces and hit the streets in thousands in numbers.”
Dinesh Baishya, former principal of B. Barooah College, Guwahati, was also present in the protest meeting and urged for a stronger united fight. Paresh Malakar of Asom Nagarik Samaj also spoke in the meeting.
Jayant Gogoi of CPI, Subrat Talukdar of AISA, Hareswar Barman of Raijor Dal, and Madhurjya Baruah were among the leaders and activists who addressed the gathering.
Speaking with Newsclick, Pankaj Das of CPIML said, “During the campaign for the Assembly election this year Himanta Biswa Sarma repeatedly said that the election was a battle of civilisations. Is this the civilisation that Sarma was talking about? To shoot at unarmed people, to evict them overnight? It is said that agricultural farms will be set up atGorukhuti and for that reason the eviction drives are being held. The people evicted are farmers and are depending on agriculture for earning their livelihoods and that too for years. Then why were they not involved in the projected agricultural farms? What was the need for the eviction? Actually, the evictions are communally motivated and we fear that the land will be handed over to big corporates in near future.”
The protest meet unanimously resolved that the eviction drives should be stopped immediately until proper rehabilitation is arranged for the people. The meet also demanded a judicial enquiry into the firing cases and compensation to the victims. It was also demanded that the SP (Superintendent of Police) and the DC (Deputy Commissioner) of Darrang district be suspended with immediate effect.
Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Assam government has ordered an inquiry by a retired judge of the Gauhati High Court into the killings and the situations leading to the incident.