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KMSS occupies land of cement company

Guwahati, Jan. 23: The Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) today forcefully occupied about 35 bighas of land belonging to a Guwahati-based cement company at Khetri on the city’s outskirts.

The KMSS yesterday announced that it would launch a drive to forcefully take over agricultural land allegedly being illegally used for non-agricultural purposes and distribute it among landless farmers and victims of flood and erosion in Assam.

It today said around 4,000 people, including its members and people living close to the plot at Senabor village, about 30km from here, had occupied the land in the wee hours. KMSS supporters shouted slogans against business groups and constructed a hut on the plot, which Topcem Cements had allegedly illegally procured from the villagers. The plot is a tribal belt land under Sonapur revenue circle of Kamrup (metro) district and land in the tribal belt cannot be sold to non-tribals.

Circle officer Bipul Das told The Telegraph that the plot belongs to Topcem Cements and it had attained patta in 2008. “Akhil told us that the company had agreed to hand over the land to them. We asked the company about it but since they expressed no complaints, we did not stop Akhil and his supporters and they took control of the land at 2.45pm. If the owner of the land files a complaint, we will take action under anti-land grabbing act,” he added.

Ramabatar Agarwal, one of the directors of the cement company, said they were not sure whether the land occupied by the KMSS belonged to them. “We have some land there but we cannot comment without confirming with the circle office,” he said.

KMSS president Akhil Gogoi said they were preparing a list of people to whom the land would be distributed.

Akhil yesterday announced that they would forcefully occupy agricultural land being illegally used for non-agricultural purposes as their repeated appeals to business groups to return such land to the landless had yielded no result and Dispur had taken no measures so far.

Land has been a contentious issue in Assam with business groups increasingly looking for land and organisations like the KMSS alleging that the state government was offering land to business groups while poor farmers and flood and erosion victims were living on embankments. The KMSS said 4.5 lakh flood victims have been living on embankments in Majuli (Jorhat), Lakhimpur, Dhemaji, Dibrugarh, Kamrup and Morigaon districts.

The KMSS has been demanding that the age-old Assam Land and Revenue Rule 1868 should be scrapped and replaced with a new comprehensive land policy. It has also been demanding 12 bighas of land for the landless in the rural areas and 1.5 kotha for the landless in urban areas.

“According to our ceiling act, no person can occupy more than 50 bighas of land. But RTI applications have revealed that business groups possess hundreds of bighas, which is illegal,” Akhil said.