Guwahati: Jailed peasant leader Akhil Gogoi tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday evening, 72 hours after his earlier test samples (sent to New Delhi for confirmation) returned with ‘negative’ results.
Gogoi’s wife Geetashree Tamuly told The Wire that the lack of certainty and back and forth over updates on his health have been taxing and that she is considering moving court for details on exactly what kind of tests were conducted on him.
The Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti leader has been in jail for the past eight months. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has brought several charges against him, including under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Gogoi had been ill for more than a week and had shown COVID-19 symptoms.
Rapid tests on Saturday confirmed his positive status.
Two of his close associates and young leaders of KMSS, Bitu Sonowal and Dharjya Konwar were found to be positive on July 8 and taken to a COVID-19 facility in the city.
Since then concerns over Gogoi’s health rose. Leaders of KMSS and Gogoi’s wife questioned the state authorities’ silence, which persisted till Saturday. Gogoi’s family came to know of his positive status only when his close aides and others got a ‘confirmation’ from jail authorities.
“Even when he tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday, the state administration and jail authorities failed to inform us. If not for some people who are close to him and some journalists who called up jail authorities, we would not have been able to get this information,” said Taimuly.
“It was also reported that his earlier test samples were sent to New Delhi. Those tests reportedly said he was COVID-19 negative. Yet, today’s test said he is positive. What is happening here?” she added.
The Wire reached out to Dashrath Das who is the IG (Jail), for confirmation on Gogoi’s status. “It was a rapid test which was conducted on him on Saturday that showed that he is positive. Earlier his swab samples were sent to New Delhi for examination. Those samples showed negative,” Das said.
It was only when Gogoi’s legal team filed an appeal at the NIA special court, which ordered for tests to be conducted on the KMSS leaders, that the first tests were conducted on July 7.
On Friday (July 10), jail authorities were supposed to submit a report on the health of the KMSS leaders but did not.
Mukut Deka of KMSS has questioned why Gogoi’s samples needed to be sent to Delhi.
“When lakhs of samples collected from the people in the state are being tested here, what could be the reason that his samples were sent to Delhi? We also spoke to DGP Jail but there was no clarity in the information which he shared with us. We asked why there was a delay in testing and the constant flipflop over his results. A total of 33 inmates at the Guwahati Central Jail were found to be COVID-19 positive. This was bound to happen as no precautionary measures were undertaken to prevent the spread,” said Deka.
Krishna Gogoi a member of his legal team told The Wire that information on Gogoi’s positive status had only been made available to him in the evening.
At the time of filing this report preparations were being undertaken to shift him at the GMCH COVID-19 facility. DY365, a local broadcast news channel reported that a special team of health workers was being constituted to look after Gogoi.