High drama in Assam Assembly: Cong MLA inks posters with blood, apologises

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Speaker orders probe* Question raised on security lapse inside assembly premise

HT Bureau

GUWAHATI, Dec 3: In a high voltage drama on Tuesday, Congress MLA from Mariani, Rupjyoti Kurmi slit his palm at the Assam Assembly and wrote with his blood his objection against the move of the BJP-led government for handing over some defunct state-run enterprises to private sector in the state.

Later, Kurmi submitted a letter to the speaker Hitendra Nath Goswami seeking apology for the incident. Kurmi, who is known for his unusual styles of protest, was opposing handing over Cachar and Nagaon paper mills, two tea estates and a fertilizer plant to corporate sector.

Kurmi was seen coming out of the Assembly hall, taking a blade, cutting his palm and writing his protests in blood in front of waiting journalists at the exit of the Assembly Hall. No security personnel, however, stopped him as he was seen voicing his anger in the form of words in a placard with his own blood.

“In the name of Jati, Mati, Bheti we would not allow to sell off Assamese sentiments and future,” Kurmi wrote in blood. The MLA wrote slogans against the move to sell off Nagaon and Cachar Paper Mills, Brahmaputra Valley Fertilizer Corporation Ltd, Halmari Tea Estate in Dibrugarh and Ailabari Tea Estate in Karimganj.

“The government will not be allowed to sell the state’s future,” Kurmi told reporters.

“All these assets on Assam’ soil are linked to the state’s honour, people’s means of livelihood and the state’s future …. They cannot be allowed to be sold,” he said.

When Kurmi was told that his way of protesting may be replicated by the youth, he said, “During the freedom movement, our party (Congress) had bravely faced bullets of the British for the independence of India. Today, when Assam is facing threat from government action, I am ready to sacrifice my life”. He was rushed to the medical emergency room and was given three stitches on his hand. However, leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, Debabrata Saikia said he was not part of Kurmi’s protest.

“People have their right to protest in a democracy, but I do not support this kind of protest”.

“As the Congress Legislature Party leader of Assam, I am responsible for the (action of) 24 party MLAs within the House and not outside it,” Saikia said. Kurmi had in an earlier instance protested against the rise in the price of onions by wearing a garland made of the vegetable and lying at the entrance of the House.

Speaker Hitesh Goswami has ordered an enquiry into how Kurmi brought the blade inside the Assembly premises. Goswami also asked Saikia, Kurmi and parliamentary affairs minister Chandra Mohan Patowary to come to his office chamber for a meeting to discuss the issue.

Raising the issue in the House BJP MLA Padma Hazarika said, “If an MLA could sneak in a blade into the Assembly undetected, then where is the security of the other legislators?”

This sparked trading of charges between the Congress and the BJP MLAs. Justifying his action, Kurmi said his protest was because thousands of employees of the enterprises in Assam are going hungry due to non-payment of salaries for the last three months.

City police commissioner Deepak Kumar said he has instructed the superintendent of police of Dispur to probe into the incident and submit the report to him. “Accordingly action will be taken against the MLA as per law”.

On the first day of the Assembly’s winter session on November 28 Kurmi had staged a sit-in with placards against the shutdown of two tea estates. Later, he had participated in opposition protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill and the National Register of Citizens wearing a garland of onions.

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