A fact-finding team of APCR recently visited the Dholpur area of Darang district in Assam that witnessed the unfortunate incidents of forced eviction and police brutality last week. APCR said that the eviction drive needs to be seen in a broader political context of the Assam government under Himanta Biswa Sarma using the pretext of removing “encroachment” to target the state’s Muslim minority.
New Delhi – The police made unprovoked attacks and used excessive force against displaced people in Darrang district of Assam (on September 23), causing two deaths and many injuries, a fact-finding report by the Association for Protection of Civil Rights (APCR) has claimed.
A fact-finding team of APCR recently visited the Dholpur area of Darang district in Assam that witnessed the unfortunate incidents of forced eviction and police brutality last week.
The team comprising social activists, journalists and researchers collected the facts and eyewitness accounts in Dholpur.
According to the report, the police and the administration, on its part, blamed a “large mob” for attacking them with “sticks and stones”. “They said that following negotiations at the eviction site, the residents were assured rehabilitation and other alternate measures. Convinced with the assurances, they had started dispersing to collect their belongings before leaving the area. Suddenly, over a hundred people attacked the police party with sticks and stones. They ﬁrst ﬁred tear gas shells and rubber bullets to disperse them. When it didn’t deter them, they ﬁred live bullets in self-defence,” the fact-finding report notes.
The report, quoting eyewitnesses, said that “the majority of the residents contested the government’s claim that they were given adequate warning.”
“They said the eviction notices were served less than 24 hours before the government drive began. They also said that even though the people agreed to leave, the police got reinforcements and attacked the people who were evacuating their homes. The families of Moinul Haque and Shaikh Fareed, who were killed, as well as those who were injured, recounted that the police personnel started attacking them unprovoked,” the report notes.
The activists found that no representatives of the district administration or the state government have visited the aggrieved family as yet to console them and share their grief, leave aside oﬀering a compensation.
APCR said that the eviction drive needs to be seen in a broader political context of the Assam government under Himanta Biswa Sarma using the pretext of removing “encroachment” to target the state’s Muslim minority.
“This is evident from the fact that, since before the 2021 Assembly elections in Assam, Sarma’s politics has involved a deliberate process of alienating and ‘othering’ the state’s Bangla-speaking Muslims,” APCR said in a statement.
The report noted that while the government has issued permanent land titles in 2019 to “indigenous” people who have lived in a particular piece of government land for over three years at a stretch. “But only “indigenous” families were eligible for this. However, the Muslim families that have been living in the riverine area of Dholpur since 1965 are still termed ‘encroachers’ and ‘Bangladeshis’,” it said.
APCR demanded that the families of Shaikh Farid and Moinul Haque and all those who were injured in the eviction drive should be given compensation by the government. “Action should be taken against the guilty police oﬃcials involved in this operation including SP Darrang Susanta Biswa Sarma,” APCR said.
APCR has called upon the government to announce a comprehensive rehabilitation plan before any further eviction of a family or any person. “The government should drop cases against the locals who were protesting against the eviction drive,” the human rights organization said.
The report was released at a press conference in the Press Club of India on Monday, where members of the fact-finding time spoke to media persons.
Advocate Sanjay Hegde, a lawyer at the Supreme Court of India said the recent incidents show how the State is willing to use disproportionate force to quell the protest whether violent or peaceful. “Rule of law is replaced by the rule of guns,” he maintained.
Autor and writer Farah Naqvi said the Assam incident shouldn’t be seen in isolation. “This is the manifestation of systemic injection of hate across the country. We have crossed the rubicon where acts of violence are from the state government itself not from any mob,” she noted.
Nadeem Khan, Secretary, APCR, pointed to a series of lapses in the due process that should have been followed prior to eviction, creating a frenzy panic situation that led to the tragic incident. “We will approach the court for rehabilitation of the families evicted and the others who are on the verge of it,” he said.
Salman Ahmed, President of Students Islamic Organization of India (SIO) said the government is trying to paint a picture of normalcy in Assam. “The government is restricting the visit of people to the evacuation site. The situation is very deplorable and the government is shrugging away its responsibility of immediate relief work,” he said.