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Self-immolation over land
Bandhs to greet Rahul in Assam today

Guwahati, Feb. 24: Assam watched in horror as a KMSS activist immolated himself in front of the state secretariat today in protest against Dispur’s alleged discrimination in giving land to the landless in the city.

Pranab Boro, 45, poured petrol over himself and set himself on fire around 10am during an agitation organised by the KMSS and 242 unnayan samitis of Guwahati.

The KMSS has called a 12-hour Guwahati bandh from 5am tomorrow to protest against Boro’s death. All examinations and essential services have been exempted from the purview of the strike.

The self-immolation — a mode of protest unseen in Assam — has sent shock waves across the state. People reacted with disbelief as local television channels beamed disturbing images of Boro running in flames past security personnel towards the main entrance to the secretariat.

Boro was immediately rushed to the Gauhati Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) but died at 4.28pm.

GMCH superintendent Ramen Talukdar told The Telegraph that Boro was admitted to the hospital with 100 per cent burn injuries around 10.30am. His condition was critical but doctors tried their best to save his life. “Boro succumbed to his injuries at 4.28pm on Monday at the burn care unit of the hospital. His body has been sent to the forensic medicine department for post mortem,” he added.

Boro’s wife Purnima has lodged an FIR at Dispur police station, holding chief minister Tarun Gogoi and revenue and disaster management minister Prithibi Majhi responsible for his death according to the “wish” of her husband.

“He had told me that it was better to die agitating than living without a piece of land despite being indigenous people of the state. He had asked me to register a case against chief minister Tarun Gogoi if he dies during the agitation,” she said.

“We are daily wage earners and very poor people. We somehow used to manage two square meals by doing odd jobs. After his death, I don’t know what will happen to us,” she said.

Boro left behind two daughters and a son. The family lives in a semi-permanent house built on 1.5 kothas in the Gorchuk area here, which is part of a notified reserve forest. He originally hailed from Goreswar in Kamrup district.

Senior superintendent of police (city) A.P. Tiwari said a couple of FIRs had been filed and a case would be registered at Dispur police station in connection with the self-immolation incident.

One of the FIRs has been filed by Boro’s wife while another has been filed by one Sanjib Goswami, accusing KMSS leader Akhil Gogoi of instigating and abetting protesters as a result of which the self-immolation took place.

“During the course of our investigation if anyone is found guilty of abetting the self-immolation, appropriate action will be taken against him,” the SSP said.

After Boro’s death, people gathered at the GMCH raised anti-government slogans like “Tarun Gogoi hai hai” and the KMSS declared him a “martyr”.

“We want justice. This is our demand before Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and chief minister Tarun Gogoi,” Boro’s sister-in-law Rashmi Daimary said.

KMSS vice-president Amar Bezbaruah said Boro’s body would be taken to his residence at Gorchuk from the GMCH morgue around 10am tomorrow. His last rites are likely to be performed there in the afternoon.

Earlier, health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma visited the GMCH to enquire about Boro’s condition.

Speaking to reporters this evening, the chief minister termed the act of self-immolation as “one of the most unfortunate incidents in Assam’s history” and promised that his government would take full responsibility of Boro’s family.

“The government will try to provide a job to one of the family members of the deceased,” he said.

He, however, said the KMSS protest would not affect the successful holding of Rahul Gandhi’s rally here tomorrow. Rahul will be on a two-day visit to the state, beginning tomorrow.

“Let them (KMSS) protest. We are going ahead with Rahul’s rally which will inspire many youths,” he told reporters at Srimanta Sankaradeva Kalakshetra here in the morning after the self-immolation incident.

Rahul is scheduled to arrive at Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport at Borjhar at 10.30am, the source said.

From the airport he will fly to Diphu in Karbi Anglong district and return to Guwahati at 1.30pm to address a public rally at Khanapara.

He will interact with editors between 4pm and 5pm, after which he will attend an extended executive committee meeting of the Assam PCC.

On Wednesday, he will visit Don Bosco Institute at Joypur in Kharguli at 10am. Then he will fly to Nagaon and Tezpur to participate in a road show, after which he will participate in a women’s meet in Jorhat, sources said.

A 48-hour Assam bandh, called by the Adivasi National Convention, a joint forum of 26 Adivasi groups, against Rahul’s visit, began at 5 this evening. The convention has given the bandh call in protest against alleged exploitation of Adivasis by the Congress.