Guwahati: Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Friday asserted that discussions were held for over four months before an eviction drive was launched to clear the land at Gorukhuti village in Darrang district where police firing claimed two lives during the exercise.
A 12-hour bandh called by various organisations to protest against the incident affected normal life in Darrang district on Friday.
The BJP alleged that various forces, including the Popular Front of India, could have instigated protesters to attack Assam Police personnel, a charge denied by the PFI.
The district administration imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 CrPc to prevent any probable breach of public peace.
Two persons were killed and 20 others injured in clashes between police and alleged encroachers during an eviction drive in villages under Sipajhar revenue circle on Thursday.
“The eviction drive was not carried out in a day. It was initiated with an agreed principle that as per the land policy, the landless will be provided with two acres and this was agreed upon by the representatives.
“Following this, no resistance was expected. However, about 10,000 people surrounded the police, indulged in violence and they were forced to retaliate,” the chief minister said on the sidelines of a meeting here.
Sarma said over 11 police personnel were injured in the clash and an inquiry will be conducted on how a cameraman came into the scene, and why he tried to overpower that particular person.
A shocking video showing a man slinging a camera and hitting an apparently dead person with a bullet wound on his chest surfaced after the incident.
A judicial probe has already been ordered into the incident, the chief minister said.
“A Congress delegation had also met me and had agreed on land allotment to the landless. The eviction was urgent as 27,000 acres of land have to be productively used and cannot be allowed to be encroached upon,” he added.
The eviction drive was halted on Friday but will resume soon, he said.
The 12-hour Darrang bandh, called by the All Minority Organisations Coordination Committee, brought normal life to a halt.
However, it passed off peacefully amidst heightened security official sources said.
State Congress president Bhupen Borah, Rajya Sabha MP Ripun Bora and other senior leaders including Deputy Congress Legislature Party leader Rakibul Hussain staged a protest against the eviction and firing incident in front of the Darrang Deputy Commissioner’s office at the district headquarter in Mangaldoi.
The delegation also submitted a memorandum to Assam Governor Jagadish Mukhi at Raj Bhawan here demanding that eviction be halted until a proper rehabilitation package is announced.
The memorandum also demanded suspension of Deputy Commissioner Prabhati Thaosen and Superintendent of Police Sushanta Biswa Sarma, younger brother of the chief minister.
Thaosen on Friday imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 CrPc to prevent any probable breach of public peace and tranquillity.
It barred holding of processions, demonstrations, blockade of roads and assembly of five or more persons in public places without permission from the competent authority.
Meanwhile, of the 20 people injured in Thursday’s clash, 11 were shifted to Gauhati Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) late last night.
GMCH Superintendent Abhijit Sharma said three among them were policemen and the others civilians.
The condition of one policeman and three civilians was serious, he added.
BJP MLA Padma Hazarika, who is in charge of the government’s community farming project to be taken up on the evicted land, said the protestors had already dispersed after a positive discussion with the deputy commissioner who had assured them that their demands will be considered and they will be provided with an adequate rehabilitation package.
“After that who attacked the policemen and under the provocation of whom must be investigated,” he said.
BJP MP of Mangaldoi, Dilip Saikia, alleged that political and apolitical forces including PFI could have instigated protesters to attack police personnel during the eviction drive.
“I feel the police action was very less on Thursday. At least 500 protestors should have been injured, though I will never want anyone to die,” Saikia, a BJP national general secretary, told reporters here.
The Assam Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has directed the state government to submit the inquiry report on police shootings from five districts by November 1.