New Delhi: Farmers’ rights activist Akhil Gogoi was rearrested by the Assam police on September 25 under the National Security Act (NSA).
On September 13, the state police slapped the charge of sedition on Gogoi, president of the influential Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), and thereafter arrested him from his Golaghat residence. Gogoi, a vocal critic of the Bharatiya Janata Party government in Assam, was accused by the state police of instigating the public to take up arms against the government at a rally held in Moran town near Dibrugarh on September 12.
Opposing the Modi government’s decission to grant citizenship to Hindu Bangladeshis residing in the state, 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 is reported to have said in the public rally 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.
On September 25, at around 10 am, Gogoi was to be presented at the court of the Dibrugarh districts and sessions judge in response to his bail application in the case. However, before the court could hear his plea, the district commissioner of Nagaon, under the direction of the state home department, submitted a report compiled by the superintendent of police of the district, to accuse Gogoi under the NSA provisions.
His lawyer Pranjal Gogoi 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 Jakhalabanda 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.”
The lawyer said, “Since the new allegations were made, the Dibrugarh sessions court couldn’t have given bail to Gogoi in the sedition case. So he was rearrested under the new charges and sent back to Dibrugarh jail. Now, the home department will form a three-member advisory council which will ask Gogoi to present himself before it.”
“If the council deems it to be a fit case for the NSA, then we will make a representation at the Gauhati high court. Though the state government is yet to form the council, we have begun preparing our representation to it on Gogoi’s behalf,” he went on to say.
Meanwhile, news about Gogoi’s rearrest led to street protests in many parts of the state. Powerful student bodies like the Assam Jatiotabadi Yuva Chatra Parishad (AJYCP) and the pro-talks United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) leader Jiten Dutta, who shared the stage with Gogoi in the Moran rally, have condemned the state’s action and demanded his “immediate and unconditional release.”
AJYCP general secretary Palash Changmai said, “Today, Gogoi is arrested under the NSA; tomorrow, it will be our turn. We strongly oppose this act of the government. It is an attempt to not only kill the jatiotabadi (sub-nationalist) voice in the state but also to kill democracy.”
Speaking to local media, KMSS leader Vasco De Saikia accused the state government of “keeping Gogoi under detention to influence the coming panchayat elections in the state. There is huge opposition to the state government’s programmes and inability to deliver. So the Sarbananda Sonowal government is scared of people’s organisations like the KMSS.” Though the BJP and the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) are in the government together after fighting the last assembly polls in alliance, both the parties are set to contest the panchayat polls separately.
Soon after news spread about Gogoi’s arrest by the police, former chief minister of Assam, Tarun Gogoi, tweeted saying, “I condemn the imposition of NSA provisions on Akhil Gogoi. The government is functioning like dictatorship suppressing voices revealing their misdeeds.”
I condemn imposition of NSA provisions on Akhil Gogoi.The Govt is functioning like dictatorship suppressing voices revealing their misdeeds.
— Tarun Gogoi (@tarun_gogoi) September 25, 2017
The BJP government’s decision to clamp the NSA on an opponent is a repetition of what parties like the Congress and the AGP have done to quell dissenting voices in the state. Nekibur Zaman, senior advocate of the Gauhati high court and All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) leader, and Ajit Bhuyan, editor of the Assamese daily Pratidin are among many others who have been sent to jail under the NSA.
Zaman, in a discussion on the arrest of Gogoi on the Assamese channel Pratidin Time on September 25, said, “The Indian Penal Code has enough sections under which one can be arrested for what the government may see as anti-social activities. Acts like the NSA have been used by parties only for political gains.” He asked, “By arresting Gogoi under NSA, is the government saying that the law and order situation in the state is beyond the IPC?”