PUDR unequivocally condemns the arrest of Jnyanadeep Gogoi, a 31-year-old employee of ONGC, on false allegations of waging war and participating in unlawful and terrorist activities for his Facebook posts on ULFA (I) i.e. United Liberation Front of Assam (Independent). Gogoi was picked up from his house in the Nazira Sub-Division of Sivasagar District in Assam at around 3.30 PM on 26 June 2019. Three jeeploads of policemen barged into his house, and conducted a search without a warrant and without offering any explanation to him or to his old parents. The police seized his mobile phone, laptop and hard disk. On the same day, a case was registered against him at the Sivasagar Police Station (No. 563/2019) under Section 121A of the Indian Penal Code (waging war against the Government of India), and Section 13 (committing, aiding, abetting, inciting unlawful activities, or assisting the unlawful activity of an organisation declared unlawful) and Section 18 (conspiracy to commit terrorist acts) of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967. On 27 June, Gogoi was remanded to seven days of police custody.
ULFA (I) has been banned as an unlawful organisation under UAPA, as well as listed as a terrorist organisation under the First Schedule of the Act. The complaint against Gogoi alleges that through his Facebook account, he is regularly expressing opinions of ULFA (I) with a view to garner support for it.
PUDR has long opposed the UAPA, whose broad and vague definitions of “unlawful” and “terrorist” enable the government to criminalise a wide range of political opinions and legitimate dissent. Gogoi’s arrest is a clear example. The ban on ULFA (I) as an unlawful organisation allows a Facebook post on it to be declared unlawful. Listing ULFA (I) as a terrorist organisation allows for the mere writing of posts on it to be termed a conspiracy to commit terrorist acts. The UAPA thus allows for targeting individuals like Gogoi for their democratically expressed political beliefs. They are further helpless in the face of UAPA’s other draconian provisions. The UAPA increases police powers of search and arrest which, in Gogoi’s case, allowed the police to search his house without warrant and arrest him without immediately informing him of the grounds for his arrest. Under the UAPA, Gogoi also faces enhanced periods of detention and restrictions on bail, which are frequently used to detain accused persons for years.
Gogoi’s arrest is the latest example of how the UAPA is a draconian law that allows the government to deny political freedoms and silence voices whose views are not in keeping with the state’s policies and ideology. In light of the above, PUDR fears that Gogoi will face severe harassment and a continued violation of his rights in detention.
PUDR unequivocally demands that
- Jnyanadeep Gogoi be released immediately, and the FIR against him be quashed.
- The UAPA be repealed.
Deepika Tandon, Shahana Bhattacharya