On September 24, the villagers of Dhalpur 3 in Assam's Darrang district gathered around a pile of broken tin roofs and wooden beams, and prayed hard between sobs. Until a day ago, a mosque stood at the spot. On September 23, police and district administration officials arrived in huge numbers along with JCBs (earthmovers) as part of an ongoing eviction drive to free 77,420 ‘bighas’ (25,595 acres) of government land of alleged encroachers. Soon, a clash broke out between the police and the protesting people who were being evicted.
Not too far away, a young mother was mourning the death of her 12-year-old son Shaikh Farid, who was caught in the violence and was one of two people felled by police bullets. Maynal Hoque, 28, was the other victim.
The areas near Sipajhar town, including Dhalpur 3 village, where the eviction drives are taking place are part of the Assam government’s Garukhuti Project, which aims to remove alleged encroachers -- mostly Bengali-speaking Muslims — and start agricultural and other allied activities for indigenous youth.
Starting September 20, more than 1,200 houses and two religious structures, including a private institution, have been demolished.
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