2 Dead In Assam Protests; Man Beaten With Sticks, Shot On Camera

The police said locals attacked them with stones and they had to use force.

The police told NDTV that locals resisted the eviction drive and started pelting stones

New Delhi:

Two civilians were killed and nine policemen injured on Thursday when an anti-encroachment drive in Assam's Darrang district blew up into a brutal clash between the police and people protesting eviction. On camera, policemen in riot gear and armed with guns and sticks chased and attacked protesters and even firing shots. 

In horrifying visuals, a government cameraman filming the clash attacked a protester who had earlier followed him with a stick. The protester, beaten by policemen, lay motionless as the cameraman kept attacking him until he was restrained. The police have arrested the cameraman. 

The state government has ordered a probe - to be headed by a retired High Court judge - into Thursday's violence.

Some 800 families were evicted in the drive against encroachments at Dholpur on Monday. The state wants to repossess 4,500 bighas of government land for an agricultural project. 

The police said local people attacked them with stones and they had to use force.

"Nine of our policemen were injured. Two civilians were also injured. They have been shifted to hospital. Now things are normal," Superintendent of Police Sushanta Biswa Sarma said.

Mr Sarma, who was at the site of the clash, added, "We couldn't complete the eviction because of the situation. We will assess later. We are returning as of now."

But when asked about the footage of the local being shot and then beaten, he said "The area is big. I was on another side. I will find out and assess the situation."

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, reacting to the police brutality, targeted the state's BJP government and 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," he added.

About 200 families from Dholpur, where the eviction took place on Thursday, had challenged it in the Gauhati High Court at the end of August. The government then filed an affidavit saying it was government land, and settlers had no right over it. However, the eviction was carried out before the petitioners could file a reply to the affidavit.

Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had tweeted after the eviction drive on Monday, "I am happy and compliment district administration of Darrang and Assam Police for having cleared about 4500 bigha, by evicting 800 households." 

Reports say the government decided in June to repossess the land for a farming project and had served notices to alleged encroachers. 

The Chief Minister had also visited the area. In a tweet during the visit, he said, he was there to "inspect the riverine areas that were encroached by illegal settlers near Dholpur Shiva Mandir. 120 Bighas land of the temple under encroachment of illegal occupants in the area have been freed by @assampolice and district administration. Such squatters would be evicted from all parts of Assam to protect our land and the Assamese identity from encroachers and intruders."

Mr Sarma also wrote: "We also offer prayers at Shiva temple to seek lord Shiva blessings. A short temple management and local people to set up a Manikut, builder guest house and boundary wall. All steps should be taken to turn temple into a tourist attraction."

The tweet is no longer on his timeline.