Guwahati, Feb. 24: From the agitation in 2005 seeking land rights for forest dwellers in Doyang Tengani reserve forest to the ongoing fight in Guwahati to provide land for the landless, Akhil Gogoi’s “democratic movement” has not always been peaceful.
While trying to establish himself as an anti-establishment leader, Akhil’s fiery speeches at protests have mostly targeted chief minister Tarun Gogoi and health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma — taking him closer to his supporters and evoking strong reactions from the establishment.
Last Tuesday, Akhil — who took the lead in the land rights movement in Guwahati in 2011 — announced that KMSS supporters would go “to any extent” to have their demands met. However, the establishment was once again found wanting in trying to pre-empt today’s self-immolation that took place in the high-security state secretariat area. The police, however, managed to disperse the KMSS supporters who had gathered in the Khanapara area below the chief minister’s Koinadhora official residence.
The death of Pranab Boro today was the fourth death during KMSS protests for land in Guwahati. The earlier ones too took place in front of the state secretariat on June 22, 2011, when three persons, including a nine-year-old boy, died in police firing during an anti-eviction rally.
Since its genesis in 2005, the KMSS has picked up a range of issues to take on the government. Far from raising farmers’ issues, for which it came into existence, the organisation has protested against hikes in power tariff, waterlogging in Guwahati and Sanjay Singh’s candidature in the recently held Rajya Sabha elections in the state. During the protests against Sanjay Singh, Akhil had declared that the KMSS would register itself as a political party in 2015, a year before Assam’s next Assembly elections.
KMSS members have often clashed with police and government officials — whether it was during their blockade in Sonitpur district during transport of construction materials for the 2,000MW Lower Subansiri power project or the land rights movement in Guwahati. Kamrup (metro) district administration officials had come under Akhil’s verbal attack for denying permission for KMSS protests.
Although Akhil’s speeches energised his support group, they also landed him in trouble every now and then. During a visit to flood-hit Dharmapur constituency in Nalbari district in 2012, he received a head injury for allegedly using unparliamentary language against agriculture minister Nilamani Sen Deka at a public meeting.
So enraged were some Congress supporters with Akhil’s speech that they allegedly bashed him up. A person was arrested in the case. Akhil reacted to the assault by asserting, “The Tarun Gogoi government tried to murder me several times. I think after killing me, the voice of democratic protests will end. It is living in a fool’s paradise.”
Congress leaders had then said the attack was coming given Akhil’s “unrestrained approach and loose talk” while speaking in public.