National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) is deeply anguished at the continued incarceration of Akhil Gogoi, well-known peasant leader of Assam. The past two weeks have been particularly poignant, as one the one hand, it marked over 400 days of Akhil in jail, while on the other, his bail application, which came up for hearing after protracted delay was declined by the Honb’le Guwahati High Court.
In its Order dated 7th Jan, 2020, Justice Kalyan Rai Surana and Justice Ajit Borthakur, while rejecting the bail plea of Akhil Gogoi, founder of Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), upheld the arbitrary verdict of a special NIA court dated 13th July, 2020 and ruled that the anti-CAA protests in Assam held in December 2019 were ‘not in line’ with non-violent ‘Satyagraha’ but ‘squarely falls within the definition of ‘terrorist act’ as defined in Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act’!
The Court also held that Akhil Gogoi ‘disrupted the noble meaning of Satyagraha’ by trying to paralyze the govt machinery, especially on the same day Japan’s Prime Minister was supposed to visit Assam, causing economic blockade, enmity between different groups, disruption of public peace and widespread disharmony and dissatisfaction towards the Government, all of which are acts prejudicial for national integration and such acts falls within the definition of ‘terrorist acts’ as defined in section 15 of UA(P)A. The only ‘saving grace’ seems to be where the Order states that “no prima facie view or opinion expressed in the course of this judgement shall have any bearing on the trial of the case”.
It is clear that the cases against Akhil Gogoi are politically motivated therefore, highly unfortunate that the judiciary has fallen short of addressing this profound injustice. Akhil Gogoi has already been acquitted in 12 of the 13 FIRs filed against him in an act of vengeance by the Government. And in the UAPA case, the Hon’ble High Court appears to have primarily taken on board the arguments of the prosecution (NIA) in its ‘reasoning’, while disregarding all facts on record which point otherwise. Instead of the selectively quoted speech parts of the appellant (Akhil Gogoi), his whole speeches and actions prove that he was arguing for expanding peaceful mass democratic protest.
It is well known that all communities and organizations of Assam protested strongly and democratically against the communal and grossly unconstitutional Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019. This was a mass movement where KMSS along with numerous groups, including AASU, NESO and many others also participated in, which is within the inalienable rights of all citizens.
It is disquieting that the National Investigation Agency (NIA), a central security agency vested with sweeping powers, is being used by the current regime to bulldoze and actually ‘terrorize’ mass peaceful movements and their leadership. The disproportionate powers vested in the NIA for supposedly investigating ‘terror cases’ is being deployed to quell democratic struggles since last year continuing today with farmers protest, raising serious and fundamental questions of federalism, constitutional rights and people’s locus to be centre-stage in determining law and policy that has implications for millions.
NAPM is of the considered view that the inflated and misplaced allegations against Akhil Gogoi are clearly an attempt by the State to sabotage the genuine voices from the grassroots mass movements.
We are well aware of the ‘political threat’ Akhil Gogoi poses to the ruling establishment within Assam and at the Centre and that is precisely why the authorities are building up a ‘case’ against him to keep him incarcerated for a prolonged period. On the contrary, the consistent and ongoing mass solidarity and sentiment for the release of Akhil Gogoi across streets and farms and even within the jail by the inmates, demonstrates the real strength of the people.
NAPM unequivocally condemns the BJP Govt’s political move to keep Akhil Gogoi in incarceration over 400 + days and warn that mass movements can’t be muzzled by draconian laws and incarcerations based on fabricated cases.
We stand in solidarity with Akhil Gogoi as well as all political prisoners who have been incarcerated in the anti-CAA, NRC, NPR protests across the country.
We shall continue to raise voice, for the release of Akhil Gogoi and all other prisoners as well as for the repeal of the draconian UAPA law.
We look forward to the Apex Court addressing the unfairness in the Order of the Guwahati High Court, while denying bail to Akhil Gogoi and a fair trial in the matter.