Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Farmer activist immolates himself in Assam



A farmer activist died after setting himself ablaze on Monday to demand land deeds for people living on the hills in Guwahati, triggering protests and road and rail blockades in various parts of the state.
 Pranab Boro, 45, poured petrol and set himself on fire before the state secretariat during an agitation organised by Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS).  "Doctors tried to save his life. Boro died at 4:28 pm. He suffered 100 per cent burn injuries," Hospital Superintendent Ramen Talukdar said in Guwahati.
The immolation, a first among Assam's farmers, sparked widespread protests and road and rail blockades in various parts of the state. On being contacted, Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) A P Rout said, "Road blockades are going on at some places in Golaghat and Sivasagar and rail blockade in Jorhat.
We are taking action and clearing the blockades now." The National Highway-37 was blocked at numerous places, including at Koliapani in Jorhat district and Gaurisagar in Sivasagar district with the police picking up 10 protesters. The police detained another 50 KMSS activists from Jorhat, Golaghat and Guwahati.
Protests were also reported from Morigaon and Sonitpur districts where railway tracks were blocked. The KMSS had organised the protest in view to disrupt a government programme to distribute land ownership certificates at the Sankardeva Kalakshetra in Guwahati. The function for the land ownership distribution to nearly 100 landless people of the city, however, took place as scheduled and was attended by Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi.  Speaking to reporters after the function, Gogoi described the incident as unfortunate. "There is no justification for it ... His demand is that the people living on forest land and water bodies be given land deeds ... How can that be done?
They are encroachers and I cannot go against the interest of environment and the people," he said.  "What wrong have I done by distributing deeds? KMSS leader Akhil Gogoi had only asked us to speed up the process of distributing deeds," Gogoi said.  Shocked at the immolation, KMSS president Akhil Gogoi announced withdrawal of the agitation. "We have withdrawn the agitation as 100-200 more people decided to immolate themselves," he said.
Asked if the government would take action against Akhil Gogoi, the chief minister said all steps would be taken to maintain law and order in the state.  On Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi's rally on Tuesday in Guwahati, Tarun Gogoi said, "There will be no impact on his meeting."  On Sunday, Akhil Gogoi had said that the KMSS would not allow Gandhi to hold the rally in protest against the state government's refusal to give landownership till 2011 to people staying in the city's hill areas.

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