ASSAM Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Saturday accused “certain people” of taking money and mobilising protests against the eviction drive in the state, claiming inputs on six people specifically, including “an Assam college lecturer”. He also claimed the judicial probe would reveal “a lot more explosive information”.
Two days after an eviction drive in Dholpur area of Darrang district’s Sipajhar turned violent, leaving two dead, the CM said: “Certain people have collected Rs 28 lakh from poor, landless people in the last three months, and were telling them that there will be no eviction and that they have convinced the government… They mobilised those people and created havoc on that particular day.” The SP of Darrang district, Sushanta Biswa Sarma, is the CM’s brother.
Sarma also named the Popular Front of India (PFI), a Muslim outfit that has been under the scanner of government organisations. “Prior to the day of the incident, in the name of food for evicted families, the PFI visited the site,” the CM said.
Assam minister and BJP leader Ashok Singhal told The Indian Express that while he didn’t want to take names, a “third force was involved… organisations and people who want to destabilise and malign the people of Assam”.
Sarma said he had had several meetings with the All Assam Minority Students’ Union (AAMSU) and that they had agreed to the eviction. “I had said that if people are landless, they will get two acres. Only thing is, they can’t have land elsewhere. But most people have land… they are not landless, as portrayed in the national media… They have their land in ancestral villages like Baghbor (Barpeta),” he said.
Barpeta in lower Assam is dominated by Bengali-speaking Muslims. The eviction drives have been concentrated in areas inhabited by them.
He said he explained the same thing to Congress legislators when they came to meet him. “They agreed that for the first time the government has taken a stand to settle landless people… Thereafter they created mayhem,” the CM said.
The Congress has condemned the “barbaric act of police firing and inhumane act on protesters”. State chief Bhupen Kumar Borah has also demanded suspension of the Deputy Commissioner and Darrang SP, while urging Sarma to “watch his words and orders… to maintain sanity in the police force and peace in Assam”.
In a tweet with the hashtag ‘Assam’, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said what was the point of the Centre’s ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’ to mark 75 years of Independence “if there is so much hatred being spread in the country”.
Sarma accused the encroachers of using two things like a “mantra”: floods and erosion. “But we cannot be silent any more. The Assam government cannot cow down.”
Many of the evicted people The Indian Express spoke to Friday said they had moved to Dholpur areas after losing lands to the Brahmaputra. They also claimed to have bought land in Dholpur.
Sarma appealed to the “national media” to “hear” Assam’s side of the story. “You cannot take sides… so-called national media, left liberal media, without going into the details,” he said. “We (the Assamese) are getting outnumbered every day.”
The CM said there have been efforts to evict people from Sipajhar since 1983. “In 1983, they (the encroachers) killed seven-eight people. Thereafter… the local Assamese people have been murdered every two-three years,” he said.
Sarma repeated that what happened during the Dholpur drive, with a cameraperson hired by the district administration stomping on a protester as he lay dying – captured in a video — was an “aberration”. “We have ordered a CID inquiry. But that doesn’t mean we will not investigate who mobilised 10,000 people there… You have to see the total video… That particular person, according to the video, had attacked that guy… We do not justify that. But… please give the entire sequence,” he said.
“Police did one wrong thing… but because of that you can’t justify encroachment,” he added.
According to Sarma, while the eviction drive affected just 60 people, 10,000 had gheraoed police, who numbered only 27. Among the 27 policemen, there were two-three Muslims too, the CM said.
Claiming demographic change in the state, he said: “I will give land to landless people, but why do you encroach? Why do you try to change the population pattern of Assam?”