New Delhi: After ‘forced’ evictions of over 800 Muslim families, police repression and firing as also the disturbing video of a brutal killing in Assam’s Darrang district on Thursday, students, activists and civil society members held a protest at Assam Bhawan in Delhi on Friday. They demanded a probe against police officers and state officials concerned, condemning the impunity and protection given to those unleashing violence.
In a video that went viral on social media on Thursday, the district administration’s official photographer, identified as Bijay Shankar Baniya, is seen jumping and kicking a motionless man, who appears to have had bullet wound in his chest and was reportedly dead.
In more purported videos surfacing on social media, protestors can be seen hiding behind huts and bushes as the police open fire at them.
Highlighting the ‘targeted’ attacks on minorities in the state under the garb of evictions, a protester at Assam Bhawan said: “We are witnessing the worst kind of attacks and murders against the minority Muslim community in the state. We are opposing this pattern of state violence.”
Later, the police detained the protestors within minutes of them turning up at the site, providing no explanation as to why this was being done.
Present at the protest, the president of the Fraternity Movement, Shamshir Ibhrahim, told NewsClick: “The protestors in Assam were protecting themselves with sticks, police with heavily armed forces are targeting Muslim residents. This is a shameful act, and we demand that this process, which is being termed as “evictions”, should be stopped immediately. We are also demanding an independent probe into the violence.”
While the two dead men in Thursday’s violence have been identified as Saddam Hussain and Sheikh Fori, the other evicted families have currently taken shelter under makeshift sheds to protect themselves from heavy rains after their dwellings were demolished. The eviction drive was carried out while the state government still has multiple pandemic-related restrictions in place.
The eviction drive has led to the ‘clearing’ (of) about 4,500 bigha’ (land) where families had been cultivating crops for decades, despite ravaging annual floods, as per reports.
The series of evictions is in tandem with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s poll promise of clearing forest and government land from encroachers and settling “indigenous” landless people on these lands. The ousting of Muslims from their homes and livelihoods is being seen as an act of “vindication” against the minority community.
To protect themselves from the ensuing eviction, a few farmers had approached the Gauhati High Court at midnight between September 22 and 23, as the district administration had sent eviction notices to those families as well.
According to some villagers, quoted by media reports, the local administration engaged over 1,200 police personnel and jawans from the Assam Police’s 14th battalion to carry out the drive at Dhalpur No. 1 and No. 3.
Various Opposition parties have condemned the brutal violence in Assam. In a statement, the CPI(M) said: “the assaults carried out are based on communally-laced pre-mediated plan targeting Muslims in the region”, adding that “it is a direct attack on the constitution of India that guarantees the right to safety and equality. “
The Left party has demanded a judicial investigation into the = incident. “Action should be taken against cops responsible for the violence. Evictions in the region should stop immediately. Solatium should be given to families of the dead,” said the CPI(M) statement, adding that it endorses solidarity for all secular-democratic forces fighting BJP’s hate politics.”
Also read: Assam: Muslim Peasants Cultivating Land for Decades Evicted in Darrang Dist, 2 Killed in Firing