The Assam government has ordered a judicial probe into a firing incident in Darrang district on Thursday, 23 September, killing two and injuring several others during the state government's eviction drive, news agency ANI reported.
Home and Political Department secretary Debaparasad Misra said in an order that the government had decided that the inquiry would be conducted by a retired judge of the Gauhati High Court, reported PTI.
"The Government in the Home and Political Departments have decided to institute an inquiry into the circumstances leading to the death of two civilians and injury of several others including police personnel in the firing incident that took place at Dhalpur area in Sipajhar Revenue Circle, under Darrang District on September 23, 2021," it stated, as per ANI.
On Thursday night, the police arrested Bijay Shankar Baniya, the photographer who was seen pouncing and beating a motionless man, apparently dead, who had a bullet wound on his chest. The district administration had hired him to document the situation.
Eviction Drive Won't be Stopped: Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said that the eviction drive would not be stopped. "The police has been entrusted with the responsibility of clearing the land from encroachers, and they will continue to do it till the job is done. Eviction will stop once it is dark and resume again tomorrow."
A police officer said the protesters had been dispersed, and the situation had been brought under control; however, tension prevailed. He said the eviction drive was continuing as of Thursday night, reported PTI.
The two dead men were identified as Saddam Hussain and Sheikh Forid, reported PTI, adding that around 20 people were injured in the clashes.
According to PTI, the Darrang district administration has cleared 602.40 hectares of land, evicted 800 families since Monday, and demolished four "illegally" constructed religious structures at Sipajhar.
The protest had erupted after those 800 families, who had been evicted from the land they had been living on for decades, demanded rehabilitation, reported PTI.
The police initially fired in the air to disperse the protesters. However, when that move did not work, they were forced to fire at people, killing two and injuring ten. According to PTI, ten policemen were also injured in the clashes. A sub-inspector was reportedly admitted to the Gauhati Medical College Hospital in a critical condition.
Darrang Superintendent of Police Sushanta Biswa Sarma, the younger brother of Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, said that the protesters were armed with sharp weapons and had pelted the police personnel and others present with stones.
Continuing our drive against illegal encroachments, I am happy and compliment district administration of Darrang and @assampolice for having cleared about 4500 bigha, by evicting 800 households, demolishing 4 illegal religious structures and a private instn at Sipajhar, Darrang. pic.twitter.com/eXG6XBNH6j
— Himanta Biswa Sarma (@himantabiswa) September 20, 2021
Assam is on State-Sponsored Fire: Rahul Gandhi
Meanwhile, the whole incident drew widespread criticism from various leaders.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi 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."
Assam Pradesh Congress President Bhupen Kumar Borah said, "The very act of eviction is in itself inhuman, especially during the Covid situation."
Congress Lok Sabha MP Gaurav Gogoi tweeted, "Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma's own brother is the Superintendent of Police of the Darrang district where the barbaric violence took place. It is clear that this CM-SP duo did not want a peaceful resolution to the eviction drive / The CM continues to bring shame to Assam."
The Times of India quoted AIUDF general secretary Aminul Islam as saying, "The CM is in charge of the home department and today's act was like that of General Dyer. We cannot accept it. It shows that the CM was taking a sadistic pleasure out of it, and he has not shown any sympathy for these people."
AIUDF MLA Ashraful Hussain tweeted, "Terror force of fascist, communal and bigoted government, shooting at its own citizens....The appeal of these villagers against eviction is pending in the High Court. Couldn't the government wait till the Court order?"
BJP Hits Back at Opposition
However, the BJP hit right back at the opposition, claiming they were politicising the issue for their "vested interests", reported PTI.
BJP spokesperson and Rajya Sabha MP Kamakhya Prasad Tasa said that the government "had given prior notice to the settlers to clear the land, but they refused to do so at the behest of third parties", reported PTI.
He said the police and the district officials had asked the protesters to move away and not indulge in violence, but they refused to listen. This "makes them offenders of the law, and the BJP government has no tolerance for those who are against the law", he added.
(With inputs from ANI, PTI and The Times of India)
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