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Assam man sets himself ablaze demanding land rights


Guwahati, Feb 24 :

A man set himself ablaze outside the Assam capital complex in Dispur Monday protesting the state’s refusal to give land pattas (deeds) to people.

The person, identified as P. Boro, was rushed to the Guwahati Medical College and Hospital. The doctors said he received about 90 percent burn injuries and that his condition was critical.

The incident took place despite deployment of police and paramilitary forces in and around the city since Monday morning to prevent any untoward incident in view of the protest called by the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS).

The state farmers organisation KMSS earlier threatened to launch strong protest, including self-immolation, if the government did not pay heed to its demands.

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.

“We have been demanding implementation of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, also known as the Forest Rights Act and land rights to indigenous people,” said KMSS general secretary Kamal Kumar Medhi.

Medhi said the government’s refusal to implement the act led to self-immolation by Boro.

Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi termed the incident 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.

“There is a government of India policy and I cannot violate this.”

“There has already been global warming and we would do great injustice to our own people by giving land pattas to those encroaching upon forest lands and wetlands,” he said.

Gogoi added that if necessary the government would take legal action against those who instigated the person for self-immolation.