APFEJ expresses shock at self-immolation in Guwahati
Posted on February 25th, 2014

Asia-Pacific Forum of Environmental Journalists (APFEJ)

Dhaka, 25 February: Asia-Pacific Forum of Environmental Journalists (APFEJ) has expressed deep shock and sorrow at the self-immolation of a Guwahati city dweller demanding land-settlement and urged the authority to initiate due consultations to  resolve the issue amicably. The journalist forum also appealed to hundred thousand conscious citizens of Guwahati to take proper initiatives for safeguarding the reserve forest areas and wetlands inside city from unwanted human occupancy.

APFEJ, whose head office is based in Bangladesh, opined that an incident like self-immolation for a cause of land settlements is surprising and also unheard of in the history of Asia Pacific region.

Media reports pouring from Guwahati describe that Assam witnessed the first ever self-immolation in its history as a mean of agitation on February 24. The incident took place outside the Assam secretariat at Dispur, when one Pranab Boro set himself on fire demanding the land rights.

Pranab Boro, around 45 years old and a resident of the city set ablaze himself suddenly with inflammable liquid in the morning hours following which the police on duty immediately sent to Guwahati medical college hospital with severe burn injuries. The hospital superintendent Dr Ramen Talukdar informed that Boro was taken with over 95 percent burn injuries.

Boro, a carpenter by profession, left behind a family with his wife and three kinds. An active member of Krishak Mukti Sangram Samity (KMSS), an Assam based farmer’s body,  Boro died of burn injuries by the same evening in the hospital. Soon after the self-immolation bid by Boro, the KMSS blamed the Assam government led by Tarun Gogoi for it and declared the suspension of all protest programmes.

Mentionable is that the KMSS president Akhil Gogoi earlier declared ‘any kind of actions’ against the authority for the land rights to nearly 80,000 indigenous families who are living in various hills and abundant areas of the city. While demanding the State government to provide valid land papers to these settlers, the KMSS chief also threatened the government otherwise to face the ‘consequence’.

The chief minister Gogoi however disagreed to the activist’s demand arguing that the government would not allow ‘anyone to settle in forest reserves or wetlands’. “The wanton destruction of forests have had led to flash-floods resulting in heavy erosion rendering many homeless and affecting lakhs acres of agricultural land due to the siltation.  The encroachment on wetlands will also lead to an alarming situation and may result in drinking water scarcity, health and other problems,” asserted Gogoi.

The Assam cabinet had recently approved to offer land settlement papers to those indigenous families residing on the government land till January 28, 2001, but it clarified that the acquired land must not fall in forest reserves and wetlands. Accordingly Gogoi delivered land papers to 500 landless families of the city in a function held at Srimanta Sankardev Kalakhetra on Monday. The first recipient of land patta was Purnima Saikia,  mother of Dipamoni Saikia who died in a bomb blast that took place in the city on October 30, 2008.

“We have started the process of distribution of land patta to those below poverty line, homeless and landless people who are occupying government lands for 10 years & above from today and it would be completed in due course of time,” informed Gogoi.

The chief minister termed the self-immolation attempt as very unfortunate and asked the hospital authority to take all necessary steps for Bodo’s treatment.  However Gogoi reiterated that the government would not ‘allow encroachment on forests and wetlands at any cost’.

Of course, the KMSS maintained its demands that all the landless tribal families who are dwelling in various hills and low-land areas of Guwahati till December 13, 2005 must get the settlements. The KMSS leaders initially tried to disrupt the chief minister’s program  at Kalakhetra but filed due to heavy security arrangements.

While appreciating the Assam government for its pledge to safeguard the hills and wetlands of Guwahati, the APFEJ in a statement issued by its chairman Quamrul Chowdhury, stressed that the government in Dispur must show its sincerity in recovering the arable lands already gabbed by big business groups in the city areas.

The APFEJ also requested the media, primarily the satellite news channels, to avoid repeatedly airing the visuals of burning as it may result in tremendous psychological implication on the children and young people.

Finally the forum has appealed to the agitators to make their point of views clear regarding the demand for the land settlement to city dwellers that may have gone against the environmental interest. However it insisted on city dwellers’ getting land rights in separate localities of the city, which do not fall under the eco-sensitive zone.

Warm regards from

Quamrul Chowdhury

Asia-Pacific Forum of Environmental Journalists (APFEJ)


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.



Copyright © 2021 LankaWeb.com. All Rights Reserved. Powered by Wordpress