PUDR strongly condemns the undemocratic and arbitrary arrest of Akhil Gogoi, RTI activist and leader of Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS).
His arrest comes in the wake of police brutality and firing on people protesting their eviction from the hills and wetlands surrounding the city.
Akhil Gogoi’s crime is that on 22 June, he led over 10,000 protestors towards the Central Secretariat in Guwahati against the Tarun Gogoi government’s eviction drive. Over 95,000 households have been termed ‘encroachments’ and the drive’s victims have been tribals and working class people. The protest turned violent and the police firing and rioting left three people dead and over sixty injured.
Chief minister Tarun Gogoi promptly condemned the ill-fated protest. This in spite of the fact that his earlier claims of giving pattas to long term residents and rehabilitating BPL families have not materialized. Appallingly, he has now sanctioned an exclusive ‘Forest Protection Battalion’ of over a 1000 new recruits to guard against ‘encroachments’.
Not surprisingly, in this context of extreme state repression, Akhil Gogoi was brazenly arrested by a large posse of policemen even as he was addressing a press conference. While it remains unclear what specific cases he has been arrested under, in total, ten cases, including four non-bailable ones, have been slapped on him. Many of these are likely to be various sections of the National Security Act which will hold him ‘responsible’ for the rioting that occurred on 22 June. It must be noted that Akhil Gogoi has already stated that the riots were started by government agents and that the KMSS protest had been a peaceful one.
PUDR demands that the Assam government immediately withdraw the spurious cases lodged against Akhil Gogoi and release him immediately. Additionally, we demand that the government recognize the rights and livelihoods of the thousands of people who live in the hills and wetlands around Guwahati city and stop its eviction drive.
Harish Dhawan and Paramjeet Singh