A video of a photographer stomping and attacking the body of a man shot by the police in the northeastern state of Assam has gone viral in India, triggering uproar and protests.
In the video, which has not been independently verified by Al Jazeera, a man is seen running with a stick towards a group of policemen in riot gear, holding firearms, in Sipajhar village in Assam’s Darrang district on Thursday.
The photographer, identified as Bijoy Bania, is also seen with the policemen, who immediately open fire on the charging man.
‘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? pic.twitter.com/XI5N0FSjJd
— Ashraful Hussain (@AshrafulMLA) September 23, 2021
As soon as he falls to the ground after being shot, nearly a dozen policemen continue to attack him with batons.
As the wounded man, identified by the police as Moinul Haque, lies on the ground – a red stain on his vest marking the area where he was shot – Bania approaches the body and begins to stomp on it.
The photographer, his face covered and a camera slung around his neck, also punches and kicks the body before he is taken away by the policemen.
Seconds later, Bania returns to repeat his attack. This time, Haque’s body appears to be lifeless.
— Mir Suhail (@mirsuhail) September 23, 2021
Towards the end of the 72-second video, Bania is seen being hugged by a person in civilian clothes present at the spot.
Indian media reports said Bania was arrested late on Thursday and a judicial inquiry into the incident, in which at least one more person died, has been ordered by the state government.
Darrang Superintendent of Police Susanta Biswa Sarma, who, according to media reports, is the brother of Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, told The Indian Express newspaper that police “did what they had to do” in “self-defence”.
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.
— DGP Assam (@DGPAssamPolice) September 23, 2021
The violence in Sipajhar took place during a protest by Bengali-origin Muslims against a so-called “eviction drive” ordered by the Assam government, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The BJP has been accused of exploiting the ethnic and religious fault lines in Assam for electoral gains, and running a hate campaign against Muslims, who account for a third of the state’s population.
On Monday, nearly 800 families were forcefully displacement from their lands and their shanties destroyed by the government officials in Sipajhar, despite monsoon rains in the region.
Residents, however, told Indian media they had bought the land years ago and had approached the local court against the displacement drive. The court is still hearing the matter.
Meanwhile, protests have been called in Assam, national capital New Delhi and other places over Thursday’s violence.
“Assam is on state-sponsored fire,” tweeted India’s opposition Congress party leader, Rahul Gandhi.