45-year old Pranab Bodo, an activist of Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) self-immolated in front of the state secretariat here in Guwahati today demanding land rights for indigenous people. In a critical condition, the protester was rushed to the Guwahati Medical College Hospital (GMCH). According to GMCH Superintendent Ramen Talukdar, his condition was very critical when he was brought to GMCH as he had sustained 95% burns.
He was declared dead by GMCH Doctors’ 20 minutes ago (5:45pm). Pranab Boro survived by wife and two daughters. Reports says that his wife has filed FIR against Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and Prithvi Majhi.
Earlier in the day, the incident took place despite deployment of police and paramilitary forces in and around the city since morning to prevent any untoward incident in view of the protest called by the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) against the land patta distribution programme of the state government at Sankaradeva Kalakshetra. Members of KMSS led by RTI activist Akhil Gogoi had threatened self-immolation demanding land rights for the indigenous people living in Guwahati and other parts of the state. KMSS protestors blocked national highways and railway tracks in Nagaon, Tinsukia, Golaghat and Sivsagar.
The state recently approved giving land pattas to families residing on government land till 2001. However, the government made it clear that land deeds would not be given to people living on forest lands and in wetlands across the state. The KMSS has been demanding land for those who have been dwelling on government lands, including forest lands and wetlands, till Dec 13, 2005.
“The Congress-led Assam government has betrayed indigenous people of the state, who demanded for land rights since couple of years. The state government had promised to give land ownership till June 29, 2011, but they have not kept their word. We will continue our agitation against the state government,” KMSS leader Akhil Gogoi said. ,” Akhil Gogoi said.
The land deed distribution, to nearly 500 landless people of the city, however, took place as scheduled and was attended by Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi. Speaking to reporters after the function, Mr. Gogoi described the immolation bid as unfortunate. “This is unfortunate and I don’t see any justification for the self-immolation by a person. I am giving land pattas to people but how can we give land pattas to those who had encroached on forest lands and water bodies?” Gogoi said. Gogoi added that if necessary the government would take legal action against those who instigated the person for self-immolation.
KMSS leader Akhil Gogoi however blamed the Chief Minister for the immolation incident. The opposition political parties of the state attacked Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and his government regarding the incident.
This incident comes a day ahead of Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi’s scheduled tour to Assam on Feb 25 and 26. Rahul Gandhi will address a mass rally at Guwahati on Feb 25 and take part in few road shows in Nagaon and Tezpur on Feb 26. On Sunday, Mr. Akhil Gogoi has said that the KMSS would not allow Mr. Rahul Gandhi to hold the rally in protest against the State Government’s refusal to give land ownership till 2011 to people staying in the City’s Hill Areas.
Update: Holding the Assam Government responsible for the self immolation by its activist Prabin Boro here today, the KMSS has called a 12-hour Guwahati bandh tomorrow as Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is scheduled to address a public rally here.
‘Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti’ leader Akhil Gogoi told PTI, “we have called a 12-hour bandh and will prevent, at any cost, Rahul Gandhi’s rally tomorrow. All roads leading to the venue will be blocked by us”.