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Indian state hit by protests after two deaths in eviction campaign

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New Delhi (AFP)

Thousands protested in the Indian state of Assam on Friday, a day after two people were killed when hundreds clashed with police over the state government’s eviction of families Muslim women from their homes.

The Assam government has been widely condemned for the tactics used to evict families, with critics calling them the latest example of discrimination against Muslims under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party Bharatiya Janata (BJP).

Opposition leader Rahul Gandhi called the police use of firearms against protesters “state sponsored fire.” Police said they were attacked with machetes and bamboo sticks.

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswas Sarma, a member of the BJP, said the police were only doing their duty, but halted the evictions on Friday.

Other rallies were organized by groups of students, some burning an effigy of the chief minister.

In New Delhi, a dozen students were arrested by police as they too protested the incident.

Thursday’s viral video showed police in riot gear beating up a protester who fell to the ground seconds after gunshots were heard.

A photographer, hired by district officials to film the evictions, jumped on the man and was seen hitting the body several times.

The photographer has since been arrested, police said.

Leaders of India’s 170 million Muslims say they have been unfairly targeted since Modi’s party came to power in 2014.

They say a controversial nationality law that sparked riots in Delhi in 2020 and hate crimes, including lynchings, have all increased fear in their communities.