New Delhi: Akhil Gogoi, a prominent farmers’ rights leader in Assam, has been arrested by the state police on sedition charges for he allegedly instigated people in a public speech to take up arms against the government.
According to local media reports quoting police sources, Gogoi was picked up on September 13 from the Golaghat office of the influential peasants’ rights organisation Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), of which he is the president.
The arrest, made by a team of Dibrugarh police, was in response to an FIR (number 180/17) lodged at the Moran police station on September 13 morning against a public speech made by Gogoi a day earlier. Referring to the BJP government’s amendment to the Citizenship Act to grant Indian nationality to Hindu Bangladeshis, non-implementation of the 1985 Assam Accord by the Central government and dearth of constitutional safeguards to protect the rights of the indigenous people, Gogoi reportedly said that perhaps the time has come to take up AK 47s against the government instead of the “hengdang”, a traditional Assamese sword used by the Ahom army for defence.
The police told mediapersons that besides section 124 (A), Gogoi has also been charged under IPC sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 121 (waging or attempting to wage war against the government of India), 109 (abetment of an offence), 153 (causing communal disharmony), and 153-A (hate speech).
A case has also been registered against former ULFA leader Jiten Dutta who also spoke at the public rally held in Moran. Dutta has lately been at the forefront of a state-wide protest against an attack made on some surrendered ULFA leaders by a few Bengali businessmen seen close to BJP MP and minister of state for railways Rajen Gohain in Nagaon when they were on a drive to collect funds for flood relief.
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Gogoi’s arrest immediately triggered protests in different parts of the state, with national highway 39 blocked in Golaghat district and the movement of an intercity train in Sibsagar district disrupted. An effigy of chief minister Sarbanada Sonowal was also burnt in Jorhat district. The KMSS has has demanded the “unconditional” release of Gogoi within 12 hours or have threatened to resort to “violent protests”.
Video grabs of Gogoi’s arrest aired on local news channels showed police dragging him from inside the KMSS office towards a vehicle and refusing to agree to his request to wear a shirt hanging nearby.
Gogoi and the KMSS have been a bitter opponent of various policy decisions announced by the ruling BJP dispensation including the state education minister Himanta Biswa Sarma’s announcement of naming 21 government colleges after RSS ideologue Deendayal Upadhyaya. Last October, he was arrested while conducting a press meet on the charge of instigating people to resort to violence during an eviction drive carried out by the police in the periphery of the Kaziranga National Park. He was released from Golaghat jail in end December and was received by a huge crowd of supporters.