Friday was a “memorable day” for the quintessential rebel and Sivasagar MLA Akhil Gogoi. It, perhaps, was for chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma as well for the kind words from Gogoi.
Sarma and Gogoi have been at daggers drawn since their days in the premier Cotton College where both had honed their skills for their future public life. Sarma went on to become the chief minister and Gogoi went on to become the rebel and finally an MLA—winning from behind bars in the March-April polls and becoming the first in Assam to do so.
On Friday, Sarma declared in the assembly that the government would settle the issue of land rights of the indigenous people who have settled in the hills of Guwahati and that they will not be evicted.
“I have been struggling for the land rights of the indigenous people settled in the hills and opposing their eviction since 2010. Today (Friday), the chief minister stood up to assure the House that their land rights will be settled and they will not be evicted. It is a memorable day for me as it has happened during my first stint as MLA. I thank the chief minister for this,” Gogoi said.
As then president of the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samity, Gogoi had led the movement demanding land rights for the indigenous people living in the hills during which three protesters had died in police firing in 2011 while another had died after self-immolating in 2014. Gogoi had landed up in jail .
Speaking to the media, Sarma said while those who have already settled in the hills would not be evicted and their land rights settled, no further encroachment would be allowed. “We want to close the chapter by settling the land rights of those indigenous people who have already settled in the hills, but we will not allow further encroachment. Drones will be used to keep a watch and thwart any further encroachment,” he said.
Friday was also a historic day for Assam as the first woman finance minister, Ajanta Neog, presented the state’s 2021-2022 budget in Covid-challenged times.
Gogoi also thanked her for providing in the budget for Sivasagar’s development. “It was not up to my expectations, but I still thank her for whatever she could do,” he said adding his campaign for Sivasagar’s all-round development would continue.
At least one BJP leader, however, said not to expect much thaw in the relationship between Gogoi and the chief minister after Friday. “Gogoi will remain what he is and Sarma has his own convictions, and it is difficult for me to see they are going to hug and make up in the near future,” he said without wishing to be named.
The 15th state assembly is virtually all about a one-man ruling party and a one-man opposition