PUDR condemns the arrest of peasant leader and RTI activist, Akhil Gogoi on charges of sedition and waging war by Assam police. Gogoi’s arrest is yet again a glaring example of the state’s frenzy in crushing political opposition by the use of repressive laws. Gogoi as the President of the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) had been at the forefront in leading agitations against displacement of the poor in the name of building dams, land mafia and inadequate agricultural assistance by the state government.
Akhil Gogoi’s arrest on 13th September 2017 under sections 121, 124 A, 153, 153 A, 120 B, and 109 of the Indian Penal Code comes in the wake of mass rallies being organized by KMSS under his leadership in past few weeks to protest against the mishandling of the agrarian farm crisis by the BJP ruled state government. The farmers have been complaining of no state support in form of irrigation and pricing of cash crops which resulted in very poor summer harvest. Many farmers had spent enormous amount on buying hybrid seeds which turned out to be spurious and the government has neither taken action against the seed-sellers nor announced compensation to the farmers.
As a mass leader, Gogoi has been a vocal critic of the Centre’s Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016, which seeks to grant citizenship status to non-Muslim migrant communities from neighbouring Muslim majority countries who have resided in India for a minimum period of 6 years. The communally motivated amendment is an obvious ploy meant for consolidating the Hindu vote bank as the supposed humanitarianism of the Bill is in sharp contrast to the everyday attacks and assaults on Muslims, including the imminent deportation of the Rohingya Muslims. Gogoi’s arrest has to be contextualized within a communal process created by this Bill which seeks to legalize Hindu migrants within a deceitful framework of ‘inclusion’. Gogoi’s arrest on 13th September occurred after he spoke against the Bill in a public meeting and urged the people to resist it forcefully. According to the Assam police, Gogoi, “instigated the common people to wage war against the nation and also delivered speech against communal harmony,”
This is not the first time that Gogoi has been arrested. In October 2016, he was arrested for protesting against the eviction of the Muslim immigrants from forest land near Kaziranga National Park. In December 2016, he was arrested for protesting against anomalies in the exams conducted by Assam Public Service Commission. Recently, Gogoi publicly condemned the state government’s efforts at renaming new colleges after former Jan Sangh leader Deendayal Upadhyaya. These repeated arrests expose the desperation of the BJP state government and its efforts at silencing a political adversary by criminalizing his dissent.
PUDR reiterates its continued opposition to the use of sedition as it is inimical to the very nature of democracy. By labelling political opponents as seditious, governments in power demonstrate their opportunism and cynicism and their refusal to democratically deal with dissent.
- Release Akhil Gogoi and withdraw all charges against him
- Repeal the law of sedition
Cijo Joy, Anushka Singh,
15th September 2017