ASSAM

2 killed, 9 Cops Hurt in Violence During Gorukhuti Eviction Drive

Govt Orders Judicial Probe, Photographer Held for Assaulting a Dead Man

GUWAHATI, September 23: Two persons were killed in police firing when a huge crowd obstructed the police and administration from carrying out a massive eviction drive at Gorukhuti village under Sipajhar revenue circle 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.

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

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

Two other policemen Amiya Gogoi and Manash Pratim Baruah were also injured in the incident. The number of casualties may go up as the condition of several injured persons were stated to be critical.

Darrang district Superintendent of Police (SP) Sushanta Biswa Sarma said nine police personnel were also injured in the attack. “So far, I have received information that two protesters were injured in police firing and they were rushed to hospital. The update will come,” Sushanta Biswa Sarma said.

Earlier on Monday, an eviction drive was taken out at No 1 Dholpur and No 3 Dholpur to free 4500 bighas of government land which were occupied by nearly 800 families.

According to an 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 in the morning.

The irate mob of the villagers also pelt stones on police personnel, which was led by Darrang superintendent of police Sushanta Biswa Sarma.

“Protesters tried to attack police personnel with blunt weapons forcing the police personnel to resort to bursting of tear gas cells and fire rubber bullets,” said a senior police official here.

As the situation went out of control, the police 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 also injured in the incident, the official said.

Amid widespread protest from various opposition parties and organizations, Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma announced a judicial probe into the incident.

According to a late-night report, the photographer Bijay Sankar Bania was arrested by the police on Thursday night.

The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) has been entrusted to probe into the incident, where the photographer jumped into the body of the deceased and assaulted him.

In the video, the ‘photographer’ reportedly identified as Bijoy Sankar Baniya was also seen throwing hard punches on the protestor, who reportedly died after being shot at by the police.

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 the Dholpur area and claimed that the very act of eviction is itself inhuman especially during the Covid situation.

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“The Supreme Court had also given a directive against eviction during pandemic situation 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 1970s,” said Bora.

“Before eviction 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,” he said.;

“A government’s job is to work for the welfare of people and not create problems for people by making them homeless without food, shelter, education which are basic human rights.  We demand that the chief minister should first rehabilitate the people and not evict them forcefully. It is becoming very clear that the BJP Government only knows how to govern through the might of the bullet as seen in fake encounters and now in open firing on people. Such type of governance is highly condemnable and is dangerous for a democratic society. The Congress Party warns the BJP government to not indulge in actions that will turn Assam into a police state,” Bora added.

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

“They refused to obey the government’s order. They are doing it at the behest of a third force. In addition to this, 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 the death of any person. But whoever resists the welfare works of the government will definitely be treated as a criminal. Our government will never compromise with criminals,” Tasa added.

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