A man dressed in a vest runs out towards a police party holding aloft a lathi. The policemen in riot gear almost immediately open fire, and as the protester falls to the ground, keep raining batons on him. As a stain from a wound to his chest appears on his white vest, a man with a camera slung around his neck and a scarf half covering his face approaches him. Later identified as Bijoy Bania, a photographer hired by the district administration to document the government eviction drive, he proceeds to jump on the protester, stomp on him, punch him — and return back to repeat the same — as some policemen try to stop him.
By the time Bania is done, the protester has stopped moving. Late on Thursday, DGP Bhaskarjyoti Mahanta said Bania had been arrested, and his case handed over to the CID. Until midnight, police were yet to confirm the identity of the protester or his condition.
Asked what action would be taken against the policemen in the video, Assam Special DGP G P Singh said: “Wherever there were violations of SOPs and protocols, police will take action.” He added, “The only thing I can say is that having seen the video, we will take action against him (Bania)… no questions asked.”
A top police official claimed the victim in the video had attacked two policemen just earlier — one among them critically injured and now at Gauhati Medical College and Hospital.
The video that first surfaced on social media, and was confirmed by Singh as of the eviction drive at Dholpur 3 Thursday, begins with police officers shooting into a bush in which some protesters appear to be hiding. It’s then that the protester with a lathi rushes at them. When police step away, Bania moves in.
Announcing his arrest, DGP Mahanta tweeted, “Currently in Sipajhar, taking stock of the ground situation. The cameraman who was seen attacking an injured man in a viral video has been arrested.” He added that the case has been handed over to the CID “as per the wishes of” Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, and Bania was in CID custody.
Mahanta told The Indian Express that Bania, a local from Darrang district who is in his early 30s, had been hired by the district administration. “When the shocking video reached me, we immediately ordered his arrest,” he said.
Repeated calls to Darrang DC Prabhati Thaosen went unanswered. Darrang SP Susanta Biswa Sarma said: “Who did what… that is under process. I have not seen the video myself.”
Sharing the video, AIUDF MLA Ashraful Hussain tweeted, “Terror Force of fascist, communal & bigoted Govt shooting at its own citizens. Also, who is the person with camera? Someone from our ‘Great Media’ orgs? The appeal of these villagers, against eviction, is pending in the High Court. Couldn’t the Govt wait till court order?”