GUWAHATI: Two people, including a woman, died, allegedly in police firing, during a drive to evict illegal settlers near Assam’s Kaziranga National Park on Monday.
The eviction drive was carried out in three villages including Bandardubi, Deosursang and Palkhowa in Nagaon district in deference to a Gauhati High Court order issued in October last year.
When the drive began on Monday, hundreds of the settlers vented their ire by staging protests and preventing security personnel from evicting them. The police initially used batons and fired tear gas shells to restore normalcy. When that did not work, they opened fire.
The locals alleged that the victims, Anjuma Khatun and Fakhruddin, were killed in the firing. The police denied the charge.
“The eviction drive was carried out as per a court order. A section of the settlers had already vacated their houses but due to the instigation of some people, a section of the settlers had opposed the drive leading to the situation,” Assam’s Director General of Police, Mukesh Sahay, told reporters.
“We are awaiting the reports of autopsy. They will confirm the exact causes of the deaths,” he said.
Apprehending trouble, the district authorities had imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPC and deployed more than 1,000 security personnel in the three villages where some 250 families were settled.
Assam’s Forest Minister Pramila Rani Brahma said the eviction was in greater interest of wildlife and biodiversity of Kaziranga.
Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said the state government would provide compensation to those settlers, who were in possession of land-holding documents, within 30-40 days of eviction.
“Those who do not have patta land would also be compensated following consideration of all factors,” he said.
Peasants’ leader Akhil Gogoi condemned the crackdown. He said the people should have been allowed to live there until an alternative arrangement was made.
“Where will they go now? The government is trying to create a Singur-like situation near Kaziranga,” he said.
Pradesh Congress Committee chief Ripun Bora condemned the drive.
“We all agree on the need to protect Kaziranga’s natural wealth but that shouldn’t be at the cost of human lives and misery. We condemn the eviction and demand alternative settlement for the people.”