On December 13, more than 700 police personnel arrived at the Batadraba seed farm in Assam’s Nagaon district. They set up camp in a nearby godown.
Residents of the nearby villages like Haidubi and Bhomoraguri didn’t quite know why so many uniform-clad men had arrived. But it set off the alarm bells nonetheless: the people were still recovering from an incident that had left them shaken.
In May, a mob had set the Batadraba police station on fire following a custodial death of a local resident. Ever since, police patrolling had intensified in the area, said residents.
“When we asked why they had come, they said that they were here for training,” said Mojibur Rahman, a local fish trader.
It was only on December 17, Rahman said, that he got to know that the police had been posted because an eviction drive was due.
Two days later, on December 19, the civil authorities arrived with the bulldozers. Before the day ended, the homes of over 302 families, most of them Muslims of Bengali origin, across four villages had been reduced to rubble.
“We begged but they didn’t listen and demolished our homes,” said Rahman.
Most people could retrieve only their most valuable possessions – for many, it was the sheet of tin that made up the roof of their homes.
The police said the exercise went off without incident. “No violence or untoward incident was reported during the day-long eviction drive,” said Leena Doley, the chief of Nagaon police. “There was no resistance either.”
Residents Scroll.in spoke to seconded Doley. There was indeed no resistance, they said, because they knew better.
In 2016, months after the Bharatiya Janata Party first came to power in Assam, two Bengali-origin Muslims were killed in police firing while protesting an eviction drive near the Kaziranga National Park.
More recently, in September, 2021, the Assam police opened fire at villagers in the adjoining Darrang district’s Dholpur area, protesting an eviction drive in Darrang, killing two civilians. Several others sustained bullet injuries.
“We all remember what happened in Dholpur and Kaziranga,” said 35-year-old daily wage labourer Jahurul Islam, invoking the killings. “We also know how the minority people are being targeted and harassed by this government. Who will protest?”
This story was originally published in scroll.in . Read the full story here