Two civilians were killed and at least ten others, most of them policemen, were seriously injured on Thursday after the force opened fire on protestors demanding rehabilitation of 800 families evicted by Assam's Darrang district administration.
Darrang Superintendent of Police Sushanta Biswa Sarma, a younger brother of Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, claimed the protesters, armed with sharp weapons, pelted the police personnel and others present with stones.
Police initially fired in air to disperse the protesters but failed, forcing the men in uniform to fire at people, killing two and injuring at least ten others. Around 10 more, including policemen, were also injured in clashes.
Meanwhile, a purported video of the incident has gone viral on social media where a photographer is seen kicking a person, presumably dead. The video shows hundreds of policemen firing at unseen targets from behind the trees, and a man in vest and lungi running on a dusty street. A photographer ran behind him until the time the men in uniform surrounded the man as gunshots rang in the background.
The photographer was seen being led out by a policeman, but soon returned, jumped over his body, and hit him with something he had picked up lying close by. The man's left arm lifted momentarily, before he lay still, with a red circle of blood from a bullet wound on his chest, and a 'Gomosa', the traditional stole associated with Assamese pride, lying crumpled beside him.
Bijay Shankar Baniya, a professional photographer, hired by the district administration to document the situation, has been arrested.
The injured included eight policemen. Assistant Sub-Inspector Moniruddin is admitted to the Gauhati Medical College Hospital in a critical condition.
The dead have been identified as Saddam Hussain and Sheikh Forid.
The protesters have been dispersed and the eviction drive continues, the SP said.
Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said in Guwahati the eviction drive will not be stopped. "The police has been entrusted with the responsibility of clearing the land from encroachers and they will continue to do it till the job is done. Eviction will stop once it is dark and resume again tomorrow," he added.
The Darrang district administration has so far cleared 602.40 hectares of land and evicted 800 families since Monday and demolished four 'illegally' constructed religious structures at Sipajhar.
Meanwhile, the incident drew widespread condemnation, with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi calling the police action "state-sponsored fire".
Taking to Twitter, the Wayanad MP wrote: "Assam is on state-sponsored fire. I stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the state- no children of India deserve this."
Now, the Assam government has ordered a judicial probe into the incident. In a notification, the government said: "The Governmemt have decided to institute an inquiry into the circumstances leading to death of 2 civilians & injury to several others incl police personnel that took place at Dhalpur area, Darrang Dist today. Inquiry to be conducted under chairmanship of retired judge of Gauhati HC."
(With PTI inputs)