At least two persons, including a boy, were killed and about 25 injured when the police opened fire as a protest against eviction of settlers on the city hills here turned violent on Wednesday.
The agitators torched city buses and private vehicles, threw stones at security personnel and damaged a number of vehicles near the State Secretariat.
The boy, Rubul Ali, died of injuries sustained from a teargas shell. The other firing victim, a man, has not yet been identified. The protest was held under the banner of Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) and the agitators were led by Right to Information activist Akhil Gogoi.
A large number of protesters, including women, were armed with lathis which they used to damage vehicles. They threw stones, injuring journalists and policemen including City Senior Superintendent of Police Dipak Chouhdury and a Deputy Superintendent .
The agitators were demanding a complete halt to the eviction drive and issuing of land certificates (pattas) to the settlers. The Assam government had earlier announced suspension of the eviction drive following strong protests.
On Wednesday, the police first resorted to baton charge to disperse the protesters, who had tried to break the security cordon and march towards the Secretariat. Then they fired teargas shells and resorted to firing. The agitators, who got scattered, reassembled and indulged in violence, torching three new city buses of the Assam State Transport Corporation (ASTC) and a police vehicle. More police and paramilitary forces were rushed to the spot. The crowd thinned in the afternoon following a heavy downpour. However, hundreds of protesters led by Mr. Gogoi continued with their protest till evening. Braving the rain, they squatted on the busy Guwahati-Shillong Road, disrupting vehicular traffic. The protesters dispersed only after Lower Assam Commissioner Hemanga Sarma assured them that their demands would be discussed at a June 28 meeting and no eviction would be carried out till then.
Kamrup (Metropolitan) Deputy Commissioner J. Balaji told journalists that a probe into the incident would be ordered by the Lower Assam Commissioner as demanded by the agitators. Following the assurance, the KMSS suspended its protest till June 28.
GOGOI EXPRESSES GRIEF
Expressing grief over the death of two persons, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi condemned the violence. He alleged that the agitators took the law into their own hands. “ The rally was held on grounds of eviction of encroachers on government land. However, the government has already declared that those who have been residing on the land for more than 15 years will be given rights over the land ,” he said.