New Delhi: Sandeep Pandey, the Ramon Magsaysay awardee and National Alliance of People’s Movement leader, joined leaders of various student organisations and intellectuals of the state at Guwahati’s Dighalipukhuri area on October 4 to demand the release of popular farmers’ rights activist Akhil Gogoi.
The protest meeting was organised by Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), which Gogoi heads.
First arrested by state police on September 13 on charges of sedition for allegedly asking people at a public rally to pick up arms against the government, Gogoi was rearrested on September 25 under the National Security Act (NSA) by the BJP-led state government.
Gogoi’s lawyer Pranjal Gogoi then told The Wire, “A total of 12 cases have been put into the Nagaon superintendent of police’s report to accuse him under the NSA. While some cases were registered in Guwahati and Jakhalabandha town, some others were picked from Lakhimpur, Dhemaji, Golaghat, etc. None of the cases are new but have been included to accuse him of instigating against the state for some time.”
KMSS and supporting civil society organisations have accused the state government of political vendetta against Gogoi as he has been a severe critic of its policies besides opposing the decision of the BJP government at the Centre to grant Indian citizenship to Hindu Bangladeshis residing in the state in violation of the Assam Accord. They have demanded his immediate and unconditional release.
Speaking at the protest meeting on October 4, Pandey said, “BJP’s fount RSS which never took part in the freedom struggle, has no right to call themselves patriots or question someone’s patriotism. An organisation which is openly giving training to people in arms and dividing people over religion have no right to question anyone’s nationalism.”
He said, “The Sarbananda Sonowal government has tried to stifle the voice of someone who has raised issues and concerns of indigenous people. The government is trying to stifle democracy and we demand immediate release of him from jail.”
Addressing those present, well-known intellectual Hiren Gohain said, “The government which defended the RSS’s training camp recently in Assam by saying that it was doing it to protect the nation has now arrested Gogoi for asking people to take up arms to protect one’s own land.”
Among others present at the meeting were Litul Borgohain of the All Assam Tai Ahom Students Union, Bijan Bayan of Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chatra Parishad, Manoj Gogoi of the All Assam Tribal Students Union, Rubul Das of Anushushit Jati Yuva Chattra Parisad, intellectuals Abdul Mannan, Haider Hussain, Dinesh Baishya, senior advocate of the Gauhati high court Hafiz Rashid Chowdhury, Left leaders of the state Munin Mahanta and Rubul Sarma.
There were media reports about Assam police taking several groups of KMSS workers and volunteers under preventive detention in different parts of the state. According to Ratul Hussain, publicity secretary of the KMSS, “A large number of protesters who were on the way to Guwahati from Kamrup (rural), Baksa, Barpeta and Goalpara districts were prevented from travelling by police.”
Bhasco De Saikia of the KMSS asked in the meeting, “We took permission for the meeting. So why was then our members and supporters stopped from reaching the meeting and arrested?”