The recent forced eviction of nearly 8,000 poor, landless Assamese from the Darrang district of the State has earned wide condemnation. This is part of the eviction spree going on in Assam since the BJP came to power in the State in May. The civil society wonders how a democratically elected government can turn so callous and insensitive to force its citizens to leave their dwellings at a few hours notice and live under the blue sky, for the eviction drive is illegal and inhuman. It goes against the directives set by the Supreme Court of India. The highest palladium of justice in the country has repeatedly held that the human right to adequate housing is a fundamental right emanating from the right to life protected by Article 21 of the Constitution. It is the legal and moral obligation of the Government to provide roof for every citizen. The Government’s argument that the villagers had been living on the Government lands and thus they were encroachers is not valid in the light of the Supreme Court directives. If you evict citizens, you must arrange some alternative and rehabilitate them.

But the BJP-ruled Government in Assam is hell bent upon evicting poor Bengali-speaking Muslims in the State despite the fact that the poor villagers’ plea against eviction is pending before the High Court. The civil society feels that the Government should have waited for the judgement of the Court before taking such a drastic measure.

As if the eviction was not enough, the Government seems to have given free hand to the police force to shoot anyone resisting the eviction or demanding rehabilitation. The free hand resulted in the death of two civilians in Darrang district of the State on September 23. This brutal, inhuman killing has sent shockwaves across the country. Moinul Hoque, 32, and Sheikh Farid, 12, received bullets fired by the Assam police. Why did the police shoot these poor, landless civilians in the chest? Even if shooting was that necessary, they could have shot them below the waist. But for that matter they did not want to catch them. That they shot the armless persons in the chest proves that they wanted to kill them then and there. Police reform mechanism should include strict prohibition of shoot-to-kill adventure of the police. It should impress upon the police force and make it binding upon them to respect human life at any cost, avoid shooting, and if the situation so demands apply shoot-to-catch formula. If a policeman, starred or unstarred, is caught involved in shoot-to-kill adventure, his act should be deemed as murder and thus he be booked therefor. This sense of accountability on the part of the police force would put an end to lawlessness and restore peace in society.

Our social institutions, including the Supreme Court and the Human Rights Commission, need to take suo moto cognisance of such inhuman developments. It is also high time for the civil society and peace- and justice-loving persons to save the country from falling into abyss of lawlessness and anarchy.

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