On 12th December, Akhil Gogoi, RTI activist and President of Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), was detained by the Assam Police in Jorhat and handed over to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) for ‘inciting violence’. 5 days later, a special court granted NIA 10 days’ custody of the Assam peasant leader. He had been leading the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in northern Assam.
Gogoi has been booked for punishment of criminal conspiracy (Section 120 B, IPC), sedition (124 A, IPC), unlawful association (153 A, IPC), imputations, assertions prejudicial to national-integration (153 B, IPC), and punishment for conspiracy (Section 18/39, UAPA). When Gogoi was being produced in the Special NIA court, he told the journalists waiting outside, “I am being tortured. I appeal to the people to not suspend the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA) but continue them.” He appeared to be visibly battered, Scroll.in reported.
His mother, Priyada Gogoi, is on an indefinite hunger strike since December 20, protesting against his torture and demanding his immediate release from the custody of the NIA.
Since 2016, there has been a sudden urgency among the police to arrest Gogoi in connection to old cases.
The peasant leader was also perviously held under administrative detention by the Assam Government, through means of the draconian National Security Act, in September 2017. The Guwahati High Court, in December 2017, ruled that the detention violated Gogoi’s constitutional rights and ordered his release.
Gogoi has found himself in a maze of constant arrests and rearrests since 2016, with police arresting him in connection to old cases. On 1st November, 2016, Golaghat police sought to arrest Akhil in connection with a case that was registered on 19th December 2006 for allegedly instigating assault on a Golaghat district Youth Congress leader. However, in the decade prior to it, Gogoi was never summoned or detained in connection to the case. His supporters claim that since 2016, there has been a sudden urgency among the police to arrest Gogoi in connection to old cases.
Why is the BJP Government so threatened by Akhil Gogoi?
Gogoi is the President of Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), a peasant rights organisation comprising mainly of marginalised farmers from Assam. KMSS works to protect the lives and livelihoods of peasants of the region; they resist State action such as construction of big dams that result in mass displacement of marginalised people. They also advocate against corruption, and fight for land and forest rights of indigenous people. KMSS has organised mass public demonstrations against forced land dispossession over the years. It was formed in 2005 against the backdrop of a series of state-sponsored forced evictions that started in the late 1990s.
Arresting activists like Akhil Gogoi, who courageously agitate against the State for its injustices, is BJP’s ploy to quell dissent.
With BJP coming to power in 2016, these forced evictions found a fresh vigour. The BJP Government led eviction drives across the state, especially targeting Bengali-origin Muslims. In Hojai, Karbi Anglong, authorities forcibly evicted more than 600 Muslim families from their land. Al-Jazeera reported, “In February 2017, the government informed the Assam assembly that about 3,481 families were evicted from 13 districts. While most of them were Muslims, they also included other marginalised social groups such as the tribal people.”
The KMSS has been leading protests against these eviction drives in the state for years. When the BJP Government’s eviction campaign near Kaziranga National Park took off in 2016, KMSS organised mass demonstrations against it, which resulted in the death of 2 protestors and Gogoi’s arrest.
What is most threatening (to the BJP) about Akhil Gogoi and KMSS is their ability to mobilise masses to resist state-sponsored injustices. They’ve relentlessly worked to protect the rights of the most marginalised people in Assam, without fearing arrests and other forms of police intimidation. And they’re committed to resisting peacefully.
Arresting activists like Akhil Gogoi, who courageously agitate against State despotism, is BJP’s ploy to quell dissent. The Government is so committed to silencing dissenters or any form of resistance that it has put entire states under lockdowns, violating all constitutional values and democratic ethos. The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) in its current form has given unprecedented power to the State to declare people terrorists, thus, allowing it to brutally quash the voices of the people, as we have seen in Kashmir, Bhima Koregaon, and now Assam.
Featured Image Source: The Wire