Rest of Asia

Indian state hit by protests after two killed in eviction drive

AFP/New Delhi
Filed on September 24, 2021
Students shout slogans outside Assam Bhawan in New Delhi during a protest against the killing of protesters during an eviction drive in Darrang, Assam. — ANI

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi calls the police's use of guns against protestors in Assam 'state-sponsored fire'

Thousands staged protests in India’s Assam state on Friday, a day after two people were killed when hundreds clashed with police over the state government’s eviction of Muslim families from their homes.

Assam’s government has faced widespread condemnation over the tactics used to eject the families, with critics pointing to them as the latest example of discrimination against Muslims under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government.

Opposition leader Rahul Gandhi called the police’s use of guns against protesters “state-sponsored fire”. Police said they were attacked with machetes and bamboo sticks.

Assam’s chief minister and BJP leader Himanta Biswas Sarma said the police were only doing their duty, but halted the evictions on Friday.

Authorities had imposed an indefinite ban on gatherings in the northeastern state after a social media video from Thursday’s protests showed police with batons raining down blows on a man.

But on Friday Gandhi’s Congress party organised a rally in Darrang, where the evictions took place, while thousands more took part in another demonstration outside the Darrang district headquarters.

Other rallies were organised by student groups, with some burning an effigy of the chief minister.

In New Delhi, a dozen students were detained by police as they too protested against the incident.

The viral video from Thursday showed police in riot gear beating a protestor who had fallen to the ground seconds after gunshots were heard.

A photographer, hired by district officials to film the evictions, jumped on the man and was seen punching the body multiple times.

The photographer has since been arrested, according to police.

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