Two civilians have died and nine policemen are injured after an anti-encroachment drive in Assam’s Darrang district blew up into a brutal clash today as policemen in riot gear armed with guns and sticks were on camera chasing and attacking protesters and even firing shots.
In horrifying visuals, a cameraman filming the clash was seen attacking a protester who had earlier followed him with a stick. The protester, beaten by policemen, was lying motionless as the cameraman repeatedly attacked him, until he was restrained.
Some 800 families were evicted in the drive against encroachments on Monday. The state wants to repossess 4,500 bighas of government land for an agricultural project.
The police said locals attacked them with stones today and they had to use force.
“Nine of our policemen were injured. Two civilians were also injured. They have been shifted to hospital. Now things are normal,” Superintendent of Police Sushanta Biswa Sarma said.
Mr Sarma, who was at the site of the clash, added, “We couldn’t complete the eviction because of the situation. We will assess later. We are returning as of now.”
But when asked about the footage of the local being shot and then beaten, he said “The area is big. I was on another side. I will find out and assess the situation.”
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, reacting to the police brutality, tweeted “Assam is on state-sponsored fire”.
“I stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the state – no children of India deserve this,” he added.
Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had tweeted after the eviction drive on Monday, “I am happy and compliment district administration of Darrang and Assam Police for having cleared about 4500 bigha, by evicting 800 households.”
The government in June, according to reports, cleared a decision to repossess the land for a farming project. And notices were served to encroachers.
Earlier, in June, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had visited the area. In a tweet during the visit, he said, he was there to “inspect the riverine areas that were encroached by illegal settlers near Dholpur Shiva Mandir. 120 Bighas land of the temple under encroachment of illegal occupants in the area have been freed by @assampolice and district administration. Such squatters would be evicted from all parts of Assam to protect our land and the Assamese identity from encroachers and intruders” he had tweeted.
The chief minister had tweeted after the eviction drive on Monday, “I am happy and compliment district administration of Darrang and Assam Police for having cleared about 4500 bigha, by evicting 800 households.”