Writing ‘Lal Salam’,‘Comrade’ or uploading Lenin’s photo on social media can now put you behind bars under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) in Assam.
National Investigation Agency (NIA), in its chargesheet against Bittu Sonowal, a close aide of peasants’ leader Akhil Gogoi, mentioned that he had referred to some of his friends as ‘Comrade’ and used words such as ‘Lal Salam’ among others.
Sonowal and two other aides of Gogoi were arrested earlier this year, under various charges of UAPA by the NIA. Gogoi was arrested in December last year when Assam witnessed huge protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
Gogoi has been under detention since December 16, 2019, in connection with an NIA case (13/2019) under Sections 120B, 253A, 153B of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Sections 18 and 39 of UAPA.
In the chargesheet, filed on May 29, it was also mentioned that Sonowal uploaded one photo of Lenin with the words, “The Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them”.
Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), a peasants’ body to which Gogoi is the advisor, alleged that the 40-page charge-sheet submitted by the NIA contains no concrete evidence to prove any of the allegations against their leaders.
Referring to the chargesheet, KMSS president Bhasco Saikia said that the investigative agency was trying to brand KMSS leaders as Maoists. He said that reading books which are openly available in the market cannot be evidence of being a maoist.
“The NIA wants to establish that Akhil Gogoi is a maoist but they couldn’t give any concrete evidence. They also mentioned about the books on Maoism. The NIA had seized books like ‘An Introduction to Socialism’ and ‘Communist Manifesto’ among others. These books were bought from open market. This is ridiculous,” Saikia said.
On the anti-CAA movement, Saikia said the movement was a people’s movement. “People are protesting because they fear about their identity and culture. NIA is saying that KMSS leaders have a role in the violence during the anti-CAA protests and that it resembled a maoist attack. But we don’t believe in violence,” Saikia added.
The police arrested Gogoi from Jorhat on December 12, when the anti-CAA protests turned violent in Guwahati, leading to widespread damage to public properties. Since then, he has not been released despite him being granted bail by the court as new cases have been slapped against him.