Assam: CM says Popular Front behind Bengali Muslims’ protests against ‘eviction’

Muslim group Popular Front of India (PFI) was involved in this week’s demonstration against forced eviction drive in Assam’s Darrang district, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said after the police violence towards protest by Bengali-origin Muslims against Assam’s BJP led government claimed the lives of two Muslims including a minor boy.

The saffron party leader’s remarks came after the horrific visuals of police killing a Muslim man sparked nationwide outrage.

“The state government has clear evidence that a certain group of people collected ₹ 28 lakh in the past few months from the poor people there saying they will convince the government against eviction. We have those names. When they could not resist the eviction drive, they mobilised the people and created havoc…we have the names of six people who were involved,” said Sarma who has been accused of running a hate campaign against Muslims in the state who account for a third of the state’s population.

CM also said that he has ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry into the police firing incident. ND TV reported that the state government has announced a judicial inquiry into the incident by a retired Gauhati High Court judge whose name is yet to be declared.

He went on to say: “Prior to the day of the incident, in the name of carrying food items for evicted families, PFI visited the site. So, evidence is emerging, implicating certain people, including a college lecturer. They will be brought under investigation…the government of Assam had already sent a dossier to the Centre seeking a total ban on PFI.”

On Friday, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma justified the police action and said that “the anti-encroachment was not done overnight and discussions were on for four months.”

“We expected no resistance, but about 10,000 people gheraoed the Assam Police, used violence. It was then that police retaliated,” Sarma told the presser.

The two killed in police firing included 32-year-old Moinul Hoque, the video of whose shooting went viral on Thursday, and Sheikh Farid, 12, a Class 7 student, both of this area in Sipajhar in Darrang district.

When asked about the viral video in which a photographer Bijoy Banya hired by the government authorities and a cop were seen brutally killing Moinul Hoque, Assam CM said, “You cannot demean state govt with one video.”

“Yes, I condemn what the cameraman did (stomping on the 32-year-old as he lay injured), but that is just 30 seconds of the entire episode. But what is going on for four months?” he adds.

The shocking video showing Bijoy Banya slinging a camera and hitting Hoque as he lies motionless on the ground with a bullet wound on his chest, surfaced after the incident. The public protest had erupted over the demand for rehabilitation of 800 families who had been evicted from their homes where they had been living for decades.

On Monday, nearly 800 families were forcefully displaced from their lands and their shanties destroyed by the government officials in Sipajhar, despite monsoon rains in the region.