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This article is more than 4 month old.

Assam eviction drive: What we know so far

Mini

More than 800 families have been evicted in Assam’s Darrang district under the state’s drive against “illegal encroachments”.

Assam eviction drive: What we know so far

Horrific videos from the eviction drive in Assam’s Dholpur on Thursday have sparked outrage over police brutality on protesters. Two civilians were killed and nine policemen were injured in the mob fury that broke out when the government tried to evict illegal settlers. In the video, the police in riot gear can be seen firing on a man in a vest running towards them holding a lathi. After the protester takes a hit and falls to the ground, the policemen rain batons on him.

Later, a photographer approaches the protester lying on the ground and stomps on him and punched him repeatedly, even as policemen try to stop him

. The photographer, identified as Bijoy Bania by the PTI, was employed by the district administration to document the Assam eviction drive. He was later arrested, DGP Bhaskarjyoti Mahanta said.

Confirming that the video in circulation was from the eviction drive at Dholpur on Thursday, Assam Special DGP GP Singh said: “Wherever there were violations of SOPs and protocols, police will take action. The only thing I can say is that having seen the video, we will take action against him (Bania)… no questions asked.”

Phased eviction at Dholpur

More than 800 families have been evicted in Assam’s Darrang district under the state’s drive against “illegal encroachments”. Last Monday, the district administration carried out a similar drive in the Dholpur area.

“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,” Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had tweeted on Monday.

The eviction drives on Monday and Thursday were carried out at Dholpur 1 and Dholpur 3 villages in Sipajhar of Darrang district which is largely inhabited by Bengali-speaking Muslims. The drive on Monday was peacefully conducted as most families dismantled their homes and moved elsewhere.

On Thursday, another 500 households, which were served notice a day earlier, were to be evicted. But villagers gathered to demand rehabilitation. The police said the mob of nearly 2,000 people attacked them, forcing the police to lathi charge and open fire. This resulted in two deaths.

What is the eviction drive

Prior to the state election, the BJP-led government had promised to free government land from encroachers and give them to the indigenous landless people of Assam. After being re-elected, the idea of eviction was first mooted by CM Sarma when he visited the region on June 7. Under his instructions, the district administration has been clearing the areas for afforestation and agriculture activities involving indigenous youth.

Similarly, the district administration had evicted 70 families in Hojai’s Lanka area and 25 families from Sonitpur’s Jamugurihat in June. The government plans to begin work on its multi-crore ‘Garukhuti Project’ in Sipajhar. The project is part of the state budget 2021-22.

On May 10, the Gauhati High Court had put on hold any eviction activity due to rising COVID-19 cases. However, the High Court vacated the order in August as the situation in the state improved.

Criticism

The government has drawn criticism from the opposition and social activists over how the eviction drive unfolded.

Congress’ 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.”

Condemning the incident, the All India United Democratic Front said the government should have given the locals adequate time to move out of the region.

“The process could have been carried out in an amicable manner. But chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma seeks to get sadistic pleasure by targeting innocent civilians. Assam seems to be turning into a police state with no rule of law. People of the state are watching and will give a befitting reply in due time,” AIUDF organising secretary Md. Aminul Islam said.

Activists said the local residents have been living in the area since the 1970s and were now being evicted without any proper rehabilitation plan.

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