Two locals were killed as the Assam Police opened fire on people protesting their eviction on Thursday in the Darrang district of the state.
In a video (warning: graphic violence), which is widely being shared on social media, police officers in riot gear are seen attacking a civilian wielding a stick and opening fire at protestors. A cameraman, identified by NDTV as a government cameraman, is seen jumping on the motionless man who was injured by a police bullet. Later in the video, police officials are seen hugging the cameraman.
“Nine of our policemen were injured. Two civilians were also injured. They have been shifted to the hospital. Now things are normal,” Superintendent of Police Sushanta Biswa Sarma is reported to have said.
The Director General of Police (DGP) Assam took to Twitter and said that the cameraman from the video, later identified as Bijoy Bonia, was arrested in the case.
“Currently in Sipajhar, taking stock of the ground situation. The cameraman who was seen attacking an injured man in a viral video has been arrested. As per wish of Hon CM Himanta Biswa, I have asked CID to investigate the matter. Cameraman Bijoy Bonia is in Assam CID‘s custody,” he wrote.
Around 200 families from Dholpur were evicted this week despite having challenged the eviction in the Gauhati High Court in August and before they could file a reply to a government affidavit stating that the land belonged to it. As per the police officials, the protesters had started attacking with stones during the eviction on Thursday and they had to use force.
The eviction began in Dholpur on Monday. However, there was no violence on that day.
According to a Hindustan Times report, residents settled in and around Dholpur mostly comprise of Bengali-speaking Muslims.
In June, the Assam government decided to repossess 4,500 bighas of land in the district for an agricultural project by evicting 800 families who resided there, according to the report.
Taking to Twitter, Assam Chief Minister Hemanta Biswa Sarma wrote on Monday, “Continuing our drive against illegal encroachments, I am happy and compliment district administration of Darrang and Assam Police for having cleared about 4,500 bigha, by evicting 800 households, demolishing 4 illegal religious structures and a private institution at Sipajhar, Darrang.”
“Today’s eviction is aimed at starting community farming by removing encroachment,” he further added.
Using the hashtag ‘Islamophobia’, journalist Rana Ayyub shared the video of Thursday’s violence and the cameraman attacking the injured local on Instagram and wrote: “This is the savagery unleashed in India as Modi speaks at the United Nations about global terrorism. Men in uniform hunt down Muslims in Assam, kill them and their photographers dance on the dead bodies of the Muslim villagers killed. Watch and burn. #islamophobia.”
Several others, including many journalists, shared the video and expressed their outrage over the incident on social media.