The fact-finding team that visited Darrang district of Assam, where more than 900 families were evicted from Dholpur, briefed about the high-handedness of police force, pathetic condition of people evicted and insensitiveness of the local administration and the state government at a press conference in the national capital on October 4.
Addressing media persons, Nadeem Khan, founder member of United Against Hate, who led the fact-finding team said three people have died and around 12 people were injured and nine of them were treated at Gauhati Medical College. People had been there since 1965 and the place was just like an open jail. People have been evicted from Dholpur 1, while notice has been served to Dholpur 2 and 3. These people have used their voting rights since 1970.
Khan added, “The notice for eviction was issued on 10th September, but it was delivered to the people on 19th September at 8 pm and in that notice it was mentioned to vacate the land by 20th September. As per eviction rule people are provided alternate land and are given enough time to shift to other locations. We demand resettlement of these people with proper rehabilitation and prior to any eviction the government should ensure proper alternate arrangement to the people if there is any eviction drive in future.”
Sanjay Hegde, a senior Supreme Court lawyer, said what has happened today at Lakhimpur Kheri, what happened in Haryana and in Dholpur in Assam is that we are not only becoming a violent society but a violent administration. The rule of law has been replaced with the rule of the danda or the rule of the guns. In Dholpur incident the rule of law has been violated and people have not been adequately rehabilitated. The rule of law has been further violated when policemen went there with disproportionate force and used force disproportionately.
Hegde added, “When a photographer jumped on a dying man’s bullet-ridden chest, he completed the job that the bullets had not done. It is possible that even with the bullets Moinul Haque would have survived. In legal terms it was a murder.”
Prof Apoorvanand, professor Delhi University said, “In the year 2013-14, Narendra Modi who is Prime Minster now, in his election campaign, had said that in Seemanchal areas of Assam and Bihar the places of Rhino have been occupied by infiltrators and we will ensure that infiltrators are removed from there. In any eviction what we have seen is that generally the government feels sorry about it. But the present government in Assam has said that they will continue their eviction drive and the people are with them.”
Farah Naqvi, writer and author, began by asking how many of you have actually lost your home because of violence by the state? “Imagine, I want to get into that hate space, that moment, imagine you are very poor and what you have collected in your entire life is in that house and it is destroyed. The point is this idea of losing everything in a communal situation that a poor family has and there is state plausible deniability. What I am hearing today in this fact finding is that we have crossed a Rubicon where those who have destroyed my house are not mobs but my own chosen government. To me it is sounding like state backed terror.”
Salman Ahmad, President of SIO, who has already announced to provide education for the children of Moinul Haque, said, “It was surprising that people there including Chief Minister have condemned the incident but no one was talking of the high-handedness of the police. They talked of the brutality of the photojournalist, land encroachment but not on the role of the police rather they said that the police acted in self-defence. However, one good thing was that the Chief Minister himself said the people evicted are not Bangladeshi; they are our own people.”
The fact-finding team has made some recommendations like:
- The families of Shaikh Farid and Moinul Haque should be given adequate compensation by the government.
- Compensation should be given to all those who were injured in the government’s eviction drive.
- Action should be taken against the guilty police officials involved in this operation, including SP Darrang Susanta Biswa Sarma.
- Eviction drive should be stayed with immediate effect.
- The government should drop cases against the locals who were protesting against the eviction drive.
- The government should announce a comprehensive rehabilitation plan before any further eviction of a family or any person.