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'Frivolous' charges against Assam rights leader: Demand for full HC bench hearing

By Our Representative
The National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), India’s top civil society network, has demanded immediate release of Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti leader Akhil Gogoi, a well-known human rights activist of Assam, who is in jail for the last 200 days under what it called “ill-conceived charges foisted against him.”
Also demanding the release of young leaders Bittu Sonowal, Dhaijya Konwar and Manas Konwar of KMSS and its sister organizations, NAPM said, Gogoi secured bail in three cases under Sivasagar PS, Dibrugarh PS and Guwahati Crime Branch, but to maintain his custody, “frivolous charges” were pressed against him on May 28 for torching a Circle office, a post office and a Bank in Chabua on December 12.
Such tactics have been going on for the six months of incarceration, said an NAPM statement, pointing out, Gogoi was arrested on December 12, 2019, from Jorhat, sent to National Investigation Agency (NIA) custody for 10 days in Delhi, and taken back and lodged in Guwahati Central Jail since December 26.
At one point, NIA failed to file a chargesheet within the mandatory 90 days under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), which warranted Gogoi's release but he was immediately arrested for other cases, but fresh cases ere registered against him immediately to ensure he is not out of jail, said NAPM.
KMSS secretary Dhaijya Konwar and Bittu Sonowal, president of Chatra Mukti Sangram Samiti were on December 13 and lodged in Guwahati Central Jail. On January 7, both of them were tagged in a UAPA case in Kamrup district. Manas Konwar was also arrested on December 13, released later and re-arrested from the NIA Court, Guwahati, towards the end of January, 2020.
NAPM said, “The Government of Assam in cohorts with the Centre has tried its best to establish that Gogoi and other leaders have had ‘Maoist links’ and were operating in Assam, ‘planning to wage a war against the nation’.” 
The Government of Assam in cohorts with the Centre has tried its best to establish that Gogoi and other leaders have had Maoist links
NAPM noted, “The government and NIA have have not been able to produce any substantive evidence or prove any of the charges against the arrested leaders. Gogoi now has five cases under NIA and the three other persons are yet to secure bail for cases under different police stations.”
It added, “In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, jail safety conditions have worsened and minimum liberties of prisoners are being sabotaged. Even with a prisoner in Guwahati Central Jail testing Covid positive, not much is being done by authorities.”
Claiming that Gogoi and KMSS have been “strong and popular voice against incautious and destructive large dams, extraction of resources and development projects which can foster damage to local population and ecology, opening of the many unlawful toll-gates to harass citizens”, NAPM said, the government fears they may help create public opinion against it as Assembly elections approach.
NAPM recalled, “Even during the Congress regime, Gogoi was involved in exposing many scams and launched anti-corruption mass movements in Assam.”
Demanding withdrawal of all false charges level against him and his colleagues, NAPM called upon the Full Bench of the Guwahati High Court to immediately intervene in this case of gross delay and abuse of the legal process and free all the activists unconditionally.”

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