Assam Police Firing: Death toll rises, victim blaming rampant

Fearful of the growing support for the hapless victims of the indiscriminate police firing in Assam, the conversation is being changed to vilify the protesters, as if to suggest they had it coming

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The day after police opened fire on people protesting eviction from their homes in Darrang district of Assam, support has been pouring in for the victims and survivors of the inhuman carnage. SabrangIndia had reported how on Thursday, two people were killed and at least ten injured when police opened fire on people protesting eviction in the Dhalpur region of the state.

At present, there are unconfirmed reports of a rise in the death toll. However, sources have told SabrangIndia that since the hospital where the injured are being treated had been surrounded by the police and only family members of the injured are being allowed to go in, it is difficult to confirm if any other people have succumbed to their injuries.

We have received horrifying images showing people with injuries to the upper-parts of their bodies – face, head, chest and stomach. They show clearly that the police wilfully acted in a brutal manner. It is set procedure as per various guidelines and rules as well as common knowledge that firing for the purpose of crowd control should only be a last resort, and even then, shots should not target any vital organs and ideally be directed below the knee. Clearly, this was not the case in the Thursday firing. Read more about police procedure for crowd control here.)

Another shocking video shows a man with a camera brutally assaulting a protester even as police personnel stand by, not making any attempt to intervene and save the protester.

Action taken by the Assam government

So far, in terms of action by the administration, the cameraman, identified as one Bijoy Bania, who had been hired by the authorities to take pictures of the eviction process, has been arrested. GP Singh, Special DGP (Law and Order) tweeted saying that “the said cameraman has been arrested in a case registered by Assam CID in connection with the incident.” He further said that the government has “decided that enquiry by a retired Hon Judge of Gauhati High Court would be conducted into incident at Darrang district where two civilians lost their lives and a large number of on-duty Assam Police personnel were injured.”




Evictions – CM’s pet project, Darrang SP – CM’s brother

Three things cannot be ignored:

  • Police action was disproportionate, brutal and illegal
  • A majority of people evicted from their homes so far belong to the minority community
  • The Superintendent of Police of Darrang district where the firing took place and where these wvictions are being carried out is none other than Sushanta Biswa Sarma, brother of Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.

The bigger questions are:

  • Did a high-ranking police officer allow his family connection or personal politics to interfere with how he discharged his duties?
  • Is the state government, run by a party with an anti-minority ideology abusing power and connections to selectively target followers of a certain faith?
  • Does this not reek of ethnic cleansing?

SabrangIndia has previously reported on the series of heartless evictions that are taking place amidst not only the monsoon in a flood-prone riverine region, but also during a deadly Covid-19 pandemic. A majority of the families evicted are members of the minority Muslim community.

However, instead of apologising, the Chief Minister had on September 20, when 200 families were evicted from Dhalpur, openly patted the back of the district administration. He had tweeted saying, “Continuing our drive against illegal encroachments, I am happy and compliment district administration of Darrang and Assam Police for having cleared about 4500 bigha, by evicting 800 households, demolishing 4 illegal religious structures and a private instn (sic) at Sipajhar, Darrang.”



After Thursday’s firing, one cannot ignore how the police brutality might have had sanction from the highest authority, with the CM’s brother controlling police in the region.

Right-wing: Blaming the victim

However, right-wing organisations, that bear close association with the ideological progenitors of the party in power in Assam are already giving a different spin to the narrative. In an article titled 518 migrant Muslim families evicted from government land in Dhalpur, 8 Assam police personnel injured in encroachers attack, 2 attackers killed in police firing, the publication squarely blames the evicted families calling them “migrant Muslim miscreants” and “illegal encroachers”. It even accused the families of stone pelting, attacking the police with sharp weapons and even setting fire to their own huts!

This vilification campaign is also being amplified on social media by trolls. But perhaps this is the right-wing’s attempt to draw attention away from all the support and sympathy that the victims and survivors have received.

Support from civil society and Opposition parties grows

The incident has once again sparked outrage. Rahul Gandhi tweeted saying, “Assam is on state-sponsored fire. I stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the state- no children of India deserve this.”



Meanwhile, the CPIML has demanded the resignation of Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma. In a statement, CPIML Politburo member Kavita Krishnan said, “The whole world is shocked by the massacre by the Assam Police of poor unarmed Muslims protesting demolition of their homes in Darrang district of Assam. Many have sustained horrific injuries. Even children have not been spared.” Highlighting how the carnage took place in a district where the Superintendent of Police is the CM’s brother, Krishnan said, “Significantly the Superintendent of Police of Darrang district, who commands the murderous police force, is the brother of the Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma. This shows that the massacre is no “mistake”, it is a policy of ethnic cleansing directed by the CM’s office itself. For justice to be done, it is imperative that the SP and his men be arrested and charged with murder; the CM must be sacked; and an independent court-monitored enquiry be set up which must investigate the entire chain of command from Home Ministry of India to the Chief Minister of Assam down to his brother the Darrang SP.”

The All India Kisan Mazdoor Sabha (AIKMS) has also issued a statement in solidarity with the victims saying, “AIKMS strongly condemns police firing on the people in Dhalpur in Darrang District of Assam. In this firing two persons have been killed and several seriously injured. Police resorted to firing as part of drive to evict people in the name of encroachment though they have been living there since long.” It added, “On Monday police had forcibly evicted 800 families. They resorted to firing to evict more families.” Calling out the state government for its role, it said, “RSS-BJP govt. has taken this undemocratic and inhuman drive even without providing any alternative to the evicted people. This drive is to forcibly evict people who belong to minorities.” Further it said, “AIKMS demands that this eviction be stopped immediately, lands of those evicted and police officers who ordered firing to kill people be prosecuted. AIKMS calls upon all peasant organisations and democratic forces to protest against this illegal and i human eviction drive.”


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