Monday, 27 June, 2022
HomeIndiaJudicial probe into brutal Assam eviction hasn’t begun in 3 months, 1st...

Judicial probe into brutal Assam eviction hasn’t begun in 3 months, 1st staffer appointed now

Case in Darrang district's Sipajhar made headlines in September for 'brutality' of Assam Police and images of photographer stomping on body of villager. At least 2 people died.

Text Size:

Guwahati: The probe in the Sipajhar eviction case which made national headlines for the apparent brutality of the Assam Police and images of a photographer stomping on the body of a villager is yet to “take off” more than three months after the incident, because the retired Gauhati High Court judge B.D. Agarwal, who is leading the judicial inquiry, is getting support staff only now.

Speaking about the status of the probe, Agarwal said the inquiry will begin in January after his staff is appointed.

“My staff and secretaries have not been appointed. The moment they are appointed, I will certainly start going to the place and reporting,” he told ThePrint on 27 December, adding that names had been recommended for the appointments.

“The judicial process cannot be equated with executive inquiry. If you are connected with the judiciary, the inquiry should be fair. But we will start the inquiry very soon, by January,” he said.

Then, on 30 December, an official with the state’s home department, who didn’t wish to be named, said that a secretary had been appointed on Tuesday, 28 December, and had taken charge Thursday. “The commission will start the inquiry very soon,” the official said.

The inquiry will probe the clashes that broke out on 23 September following a government eviction drive in Dholpur 1 and Dholpur 3 villages in Darrang district’s Sipajhar area against “illegal encroachers”. At least two people died in the violence.

Hours after the eviction drive, a video was circulated over social media in which a villager was seen being shot from close range while running towards the police personnel with a lathi. His lifeless body with a bullet wound was later seen being kicked by a man, identified as Bijay Shankar Bania, a photographer hired by the district administration.

Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had then instituted a judicial inquiry into the incident.

Also read: Assam: Congress MP files police complaint against Himanta over ‘communal remark’

‘Delaying tactic,’ says opposition

Congress’s Debabrata Saikia, leader of the opposition in the Assam assembly, said inquiries are generally seen as a move by the government to keep (contain) the agitation, and that this is “just a delaying tactic”.

Saikia had moved the Gauhati High Court against the “forced eviction”, seeking the court’s intervention in conducting “mandatory social impact assessment” and ensuring that the principles of Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, are followed in letter and spirit.

A police officer, who didn’t wish to be named, confirmed that Bijay Shankar Bania is still under arrest. The case against him had been handed over to the Criminal Investigation Department.

‘No intention to resettle’

For over 1,000 families who were evicted from the area, life continues to be a struggle.

“The people who were evicted are living in very squalid conditions… There has been no assistance from the government so far,” Eddris Ali, a resident of Dholpur and a member of the All Assam Minority Students’ Union (AAMSU) said. “They don’t have any kind of livelihood now. They are all living hand-to-mouth.”

According to the Assam Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Rules, 2015, the administration, after seeking consent from the affected families, has to formulate a rehabilitation and resettlement scheme.

Ainuddin Ahmed of the AAMSU, who is a resident of Mangaldoi, a town close to the Dholpur villages, said over 1,000 families have been living on just 1,000 bighas, or around 330 acres, of land.

“There is no intention to resettle those who have been evicted, they will temporarily move from one place to another and then they will take them to another,” he alleged.

Ahmed claimed that the administration is currently also looking to evict 420 more families from the area. However, Deputy Commissioner of Darrang, Pranab Kumar Sarmah said the families are in the place near the evicted area, and “discussions are on for the resettlement process”. “We are hoping to do it shortly,” Sarmah added.

Last week, a report prepared by the two organisations, Centre for Minority Studies, Research and Development, and Assam & BTAD Citizen Rights Forum, had claimed that the evicted families had come and settled before 1971, and have “legacy data” attesting to it.

(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)

Also read: Army’s Court of Inquiry team visits site of Dec 4 firing incident in Nagaland


Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it

India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.

But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.

ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.

Support Our Journalism

Most Popular