Akhil Gogoi, a peasant leader’s arrest on sedition charges has been widely condemned. The Assam Police arrested anti-corruption campaigner and Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti leader Akhil Gogoi on charges of sedition on Wednesday. He was arrested from Golaghat city for his speech about an armed struggle in Assam’s Moran town on Tuesday. He has also been accused of spreading religious animosity, police said. During his speech, Gogoi is believed to have said that if Hindu migrants from Bangladesh were forced upon Assam, people from the state would be forced to take up arms. In 2016, the Union government proposed to amend the Citizenship Act to grant citizenship to people without valid documents belonging to minority communities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan after six years of residence in India.
Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) for more than a decade has fought for the rights of the people and their sovereign control over land, water and forests. It has exposed corruption in PDS and other government welfare schemes and have remained committed to people’s rights. It is a wide-based organisation that is made up of farmers, workers and students spread across various districts of Assam and is part of various national organisations and networks including National Alliance of People’s Movements, All India Kisan Coordination Committee, Bhumi Adhikar Andolan, Sangharsh and many others. Their democratic movement has received support from across the country.
The role of KMSS in raising issues of people’s right to their lands has been central, whether in opposing the Lower Subansiri Hydro Power Project and demanding the protection of people’s right to their livelihood, or in opposing the forcible eviction of cultivators from the Kaziranga National Park that took place under extremely violent and coercive conditions, has been central and critical in giving people the strength to oppose powerful forces that seek to deprive them of what is rightfully theirs. KMSS has had a particularly important role in exposing the resource grab currently taking place in Assam, with the full support and backing of the state government and its institutions, and in defending the rights of the indigenous and cultivating population of the region.
It is their growing popularity and acceptance across various classes and sections in Assam that this BJP government and earlier Congress government has always feared. Akhil Gogoi and KMSS activists have faced repression over years and this is not the first time they have been targeted for posing a sharp critique of the undemocratic policies of the state. Repeated arrests and muzzling of dissent has been a consistent strategy whether by the previous government, or the current government.
KMSS has staunchly opposed the saffronisation move of the BJP government – in its attempt to name 21 government colleges after RSS ideologue Deen Dayal Upadhyay, or in its attempt to amend the Citizenship Act that uses a communal basis to grant citizenship to refugees of one religion and not another. In opposing this polarising and communal politics of the ruling BJP government, KMSS has worked hard to bring together secular and progressive forces and that is the main reason why they are miffed and have arrested Akhil once again on fabricated charges.
The NAPM and other platforms have severely condemned the arrest and charges against ths human rights defender.