Video Editor: Abhishek Sharma
On 23 September 2021, clashes broke out between police and those who were protesting against the government’s eviction drive to remove ‘illegal encroachers’ in Assam’s Darrang district,.
The protest culminated into violence resulting in two civilians being killed, including a 12-year-old boy, and injuring many. The ensuing violence also led to nine policemen being injured.
To meet the families of the departed and deceased, The Quint travelled to Assam’s Darrang district.
On 20 September 2021, 4,000 bighas of land were cleared without any violence. When the cops tried to evict the 7,000 bighas of land from encroachers on Thursday, 23 September, things turned ugly.
""The government is responsible for this violence. Our people were protesting peacefully. Discussions were going on. When the people were leaving after the discussion, a police team came from the east and started beating the people."" - Haider Ali, Local Activist
TWO VILLAGERS KILLED IN VIOLENCE
Among the two killed was 33-year-old Maynal Hoque and 12-year-old Farid Shakh. In a widely circulated video on social media from the protest in Darrang, Maynal Haque is seen charging towards the cops with a stick. He is shot and thrashed by the police and stomped by a photographer hired by the district administration, Bijoy Bania.
A father of three children, Maynal Hoque was a caretaker of two elderly parents who made a living by growing vegetables in a patch of land that the government claimed was not his.
""My brother is dead. The photographer also attacked his body. He has three young kids. What will they do?"" - Ainuddin, Maynal Hoque's brother
His inconsolable wife and mother huddled under a tin shelter at a makeshift camp. This tin shelter is their home now, which they might lose any time again. Maynal's family alleged they did not receive any eviction notice and questions the intention of the government, while showing their PAN card and Aadhaar cards.
""The government needs to take care of us, give us a place to stay. My father has been killed. I don’t even have anything to wear. They even burned my clothes."" - Monjura, Maynal Hoque’s Daughter
Maynal's family alleged not receiving any eviction notice and questions the intention of the government while showing their PAN card and Aadhaar cards.
12-year-old Shak Farid’s was the second civilian who was killed in the brutal clash. On the day of the protest, Farid had gone to collect his Aadhaar card from the post office. While returning home, he was caught in the brawl. Farid’s grave is dug at the spot where he was shot.
""He had gone to Dholpur Post Office to collect his Aadhaar card. When he was coming back, he was shot. He fell down, people took him to the hospital. I came to know only when I got a call on my mobile number. They killed my son. I want justice."" - Khalek Ali, Shakh Farid's Father
Among those who fell to police bullets in Sipajhar yesterday was 12-y-o Shaikh Farid. The Aadhaar card was found in his pocket. He'd gone to the post office to collect it. pic.twitter.com/IbF7dKeM7r
— Arunabh Saikia (@psychia90) September 24, 2021
RELIGIOUS STRUCTURES 'RAZED DOWN'
At least 800 families were evicted in this drive against encroachment. The state wants to repossess 4,500 bighas of government land for an agricultural project. However, residents complained of receiving the eviction notice only 6-9 hours before the drive.
"They just didn’t give us enough time. I personally requested them to allow us to dismantle our house. But they demolished it with a JCB”, says Mulukjaan Nisa, a displaced villager.
Locals alleged that even religious structures weren’t spared. ‘Four mosques and a madrassa’ were pulled down. Some men were seen sitting near a demolished mosque offering prayers in the afternoon.
'PRESENCE OF RADICAL ELEMENTS': ASSAM GOVERNMENT
Doubting the presence of radical elements in the protest and their provocative role, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Bisawa Sarma said that there was no provocation until people were evicted from 80 percent of the land. It only started with the rest of the eviction drive.
In 2017, the Assam government had alleged that almost 49 lakh bighas of land were encroached upon.
“This (eviction drive) was urgent. We had to put these 27,000 acres of land for productive purposes. There was a temple and people had encroached upon that as well. We have been talking with them for four months. The Congress delegation agreed that the land should be allotted according to the land policy. This was not an overnight decision,” says Assam CM Sarma.
For now, those who have been evicted have taken shelter in the makeshift structures. However, many complain that they are living under tough conditions.
Exposed to rain, kids often fall sick, says Abdul Razaq, one of the displaced villagers. While Razaq complains of the increased vulnerabilities, Mulukjaan Nisa is scared for her pregnant daughter-in-law as she can hardly move.
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