Two persons were killed and nineteen -- including police personnel -- injured today in India's northeastern state of Assam after a protest turned violent and the police opened fire, the Press Trust of India (PTI) reported.
The two men killed had been part of a group of villagers protesting their eviction from near the Kaziranga national park.
The protest turned violent after the protesters attacked the police and started pelting stones at them.
The Guwahati high court had ordered the eviction of the villagers in October last year but the villagers refused to move out until they were paid adequate compensation; which is when the protest turned violent.
"The eviction was carried out as per orders of the Gauhati High Court and the police used full restraint and minimum force to ensure that the land was cleared of encroachers," said Mukesh Sahay, Assam's director general of police (DGP). "There may be a possibility of the people being instigated by a section of people. We are investigating the matter and strict action will be taken as per law against those who provoked the people.''
The injured included 15 police personnel, the DGP said. Many families had moved with their belonging to the neighbouring national highway as a sign of protest.
According to PTI, 190 families are being evicted from Banderdubi, while 160 families are being evicted from Deochurchang -- the two areas the court had ordered cleared.
Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal ordered ex-gratia payments of Rs 5 lakh to the next of kin of the dead and Rs 50,000 to the injured.
The chief minister had asked two senior ministers and the local MLA to meet representatives of the two areas before carrying out the eviction, PTI reported.
Former Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi said removing people from their land and homes was "condemnable", PTI reported. "Agreed that the Gauhati High Court had given the ruling last year but there was a process to ensure its adherence. The state government failed to take the necessary measures before carrying out the eviction," he said.
All India United Democratic Front party leader Badruddin Ajmal demanded strong action against the police, and adequate compensation for the evicted villagers and the family members of those killed today. People who are being evicted from Kaziranga are "neither Bangladeshi nor illegal settlers but are political victims because they are Muslims," he alleged.
"Our government will never compromise on jati (identity), mati (land) and bheti (home). On that note, I also assure all deserving land owners that adequate compensation will be paid to all of them," state health and education minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said.
The eviction drive is continuing, despite the tensions. PTI reported that authorities were using elephants and excavators to demolish houses built on encroached land.
The two persons killed in the police firing have been identified as Anjuma Khatun and Fakhruddin, PTI reported.