New Delhi: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has held the use of phrases like ‘lal salam’ and ‘comrade’ are proof that Bittu Sonowal, a close aide of Assam farmers’ leader Akhil Gogoi, is a Maoist.
Sonowal was arrested earlier this year and (along with Gogoi and two of this other aides) charged under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, by the NIA. These arrests were made in the wake of the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests across Assam in December, 2019.
The chargesheet filed against them on May 29 states that Sonowal uploaded a photo of Vladimir Lenin on Facebook with the words: “The Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them”.
The NIA also said that Sonowal had greeted some of his friends with the ‘lal salam’ chant and referred to them as ‘comrade’.
Akhil Gogoi himself was arrested on December 12 last year from Jorhat and charged under Sections 120B, 253A, 153B of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Sections 18 and 39 of UAPA.
Though Gogoi was granted bail by a court, the police did not release him. New cases were slapped against him and this was made the grounds for continuing his detention.
The peasant’s body, Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), which with Gogoi was associated as an advisor, has denounced the filing of the 40-page chargesheet by the NIA, saying it provides no concrete evidence to prove the allegations.
The Samiti president, Bhasco Saikia, told Outlook that NIA was keen to brand its leaders as Maoists.
“The NIA wants to establish that Akhil Gogoi is a Maoist but they couldn’t give any concrete evidence. They also mentioned about the books on Maoism. The NIA had seized books like An Introduction to Socialism and Communist Manifesto among others. These books were bought from open market. This is ridiculous,” he said.
Saikia said the anti-CAA movement in Assam had drawn people because “they feared about their identity and culture”. He said the KMSS did not believe in violence.