On Thursday, police in Assam arrested a photographer who was observed abusing a wounded protester during a shooting incident in the state’s Darrang district’s Dholpur village in Sipajhar area. He was Identified as Bijay Shankar Baniya.
According to reports, Baniya is a professional photographer who was engaged by the district administration to capture the Assam government’s eviction operation in the area.
On Thursday, the situation in the Dholpur Gorukhuti area became tense as police and district administration officials attempted to evict encroachers who were protesting the government’s action.
Officials were allegedly attacked with sharp weapons and stones were thrown at them by some protestors. In self-defence, the police opened fire, killing two people. According to Darrang Superintendent of Police Sushanta Biswa Sarma, the two sides got into a fight, injuring at least ten others.
Photographer caught in the Viral video
A claimed video of the event, in which photographer Bijay Shankar Baniya is seen hitting a protester who was shot, has gone viral on social media.
Hundreds of police officers could be seen firing at unidentified targets from behind the woods in the video. Baniya was observed following a man until security personnel surrounded the protester and escorted Baniya away from the crowd.
The photographer, on the other hand, returned quickly, leaping over the injured man’s body and hitting him with something he had picked up nearby.
The cops were observed telling him to move away once more. Meanwhile, the man’s left arm rose briefly before collapsing with a red circle of blood on his chest, allegedly from a bullet wound, and a crumpled ‘Gomosa’ beside him.
As part of the state government’s battle against “illegal encroachments,” at least 800 households occupying roughly 4,500 bighas of land in Assam’s Darrang district were evicted. Four religious institutions and a private institution were also demolished, according to Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.
Evictions have been taking place in Dholpur 1 and Dholpur 3 villages in Sipajhar since September 20. While the condition of the injured individual could not be determined, the police reported two deaths and claimed that 11 police officers, including a DSP, were hurt during the Dholpur eviction drive.
One of the BJP government’s major election pledges before the 2016 and 2021 assembly elections was to release government land and land belonging to temples and monasteries from “encroachers” and distribute it to the state’s “original landless people.” In June, similar eviction campaigns removed 70 residents from Hojai’s Lanka town and 25 families from Sonitpur’s Jamugurihat town.
The government of Sipajhar intends to implement the multi-crore ‘Garukhuti Project,’ which was declared in the state budget for 2021-22, and wants to use the land freed up for afforestation and agriculture operations including indigenous youth. Opposition parties and human rights organizations have frequently criticized such initiatives for evicting individuals without a solid rehabilitation strategy.
“The drive was carried out by the Darrang administration and led by the chairman of the proposed Gorukhuti multi-purpose agricultural project. At the same time, the district administration used 22 tractors to plough the cleared, cultivable land right after the eviction,” said a villager.
In Assam, it is widely assumed that the majority of these “encroachers” are illegal Bangladeshi immigrants. According to the report of a six-member committee for the protection of indigenous people’s land rights in Assam, headed by former chief election commissioner H.S. Brahma, illegal Bangladeshi migrants dominated in 15 of Assam’s 33 districts.
“Illegal Bangladeshis descend on the land like an army of marauding invaders armed with dangerous weapons, set up illegal villages, mostly on the char lands overnight, in full view and with the tacit, if not active, connivance and encouragement of corrupt government officers as also with abetment of communal political leaders,” read the report.