Guwahati: Two people, including a middle-aged woman, were killed when protests against an eviction drive turned violent in Banderdubi village near Assam's Kaziranga this morning. 19 policemen have also been injured in the incident.
According to police sources, they died in a near stampede like situation after cops fired tear gas shells to try and disperse the protestors. Several rounds were also fired in the air, but the police maintain that the deaths were not due to bullet injuries.
Clashes broke out between residents of Banderdubi village bordering the Kaziranga National Park and the district administration when the latter arrived around 7 am to supervise an eviction drive ordered by the Gauhati High Court.
Angry villagers pelted stones at officials and attempted to block roads by burning rubber tires and logs. Police then moved in to try and control what officials describe as a riot like situation.
The matter concerns nearly 600 families - mostly Muslim - who live in the buffer zone of the national park and earn a living through cultivating mustard. Though the area is not a part of the core animal habitat at Kaziranga, it is used as a refuge by the animals during floods.
Last October, BJP's Mrinal Saikia had approached the High Court seeking relocation of families occupying the buffer zone. In his petition, Mr Saikia had alleged that most of the villagers were "settlers who had illegally come in from Bangladesh."
Earlier this year the Assam government offered compensation to residents of three villages - Banderdubi, Deosur and Palkhowa - to relocate outside the buffer zone, but the talks were unsuccessful.
Villagers claim that they have records to prove ownership of the land. They argue that the government would not have sanctioned schools in the area as far back as 1960s, if they were in fact illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.