Acquittal of Akhil Gogoi: Citizens Right to Protest and State’s Abuse of Terror Laws 

The judge said during the hearing how blockades in the protests were not necessarily acts of terrorism and there is no evidence to link Gogoi to incidents of vandalism.

Akhil Gogoi Charges Dropped
Source: https://www.gridsaratoga.com/akhil-gogoi-out-prison-caa-activist/

Akhil Gogoi, Raijor Dal Chief, was discharged of all charges in the Chandamari case, by a special NIA court yesterday. Gogoi was arrested under the draconian UAPA in the midst of the anti-CAA protests in Assam in December 2019.

Within weeks of release of three student activists Natasha Narwal, Devangana Kalita and Askif Tanha, the release of peasant leader Akhil Gogoi should be seen as judicial system finally waking up to the egregious abuse of laws like sedition and UAPA.

Most of the arrests made in the wake of anti-CAA protests and Bhima Koregaon were of students, activists and human rights defenders. Despite the evidence of violence in North East Delhi, the police turned a blind eye towards the perpetrators of the violence and turned towards the arrest of peaceful protesters and organisers.

In this context, the comments of  the Senior Advocate Jaideep Gupta, appearing for Gogoi is highly significant. He said-

while large-scale demonstrations were taking place against the CAA, the demonstration itself could not be called terrorism, even if there was some violence during.

In the Special Court hearing on Thursday, Judge Pranjal Das stated that, “from his speeches available on record, Sri Akhil Gogoi (A-1) cannot be imputed with any incitement to violence. There are also no materials to link A-1 with vandalism and damage to property that took place during the said CAA protest due to such agitations led by various organizations.”

He further goes on to mention how blockades in the protests were not necessarily acts of terrorism. “Protests in a democracy are sometimes seen to take the form of blockades also, even causing inconvenience to citizens. However, it is doubtful whether such blockades for temporary periods, if unaccompanied by any incitement to violence would constitute a terrorist act within the meaning of Section 15 of the UA (P) Act.”

Charges Against Akhil Gogoi

Gogoi’s case concerns one of the 13 cases registered against him for his role in protests against the citizenship law in December 2019. The Chandamari case was the last pending charge against him. The Court also discharged other co accused persons namely Dhirjya Konwar, Manas Konwar and Bittu Sonowal.

The case against him was first lodged at the Chandmari Police Station in Guwahati and then later transferred to the NIA. Under the UAPA, he was charged with sedition, criminal conspiracy, and support for terrorist groups.

On December 12, 2019, Gogoi was arrested in Jorhat, and he was later handed over to the NIA. On December 17, the court then sent him to the agency for 10 days in custody. On the same day, he was taken to New Delhi for questioning. On December 25, Gogoi was taken back to Guwahati and has been in judicial custody ever since.

While in prison, Gogoi along with others founded the Raijor Dal party, formed in October 2020. He was elected party president, and even won the seat in Sinsagar constituency in Upper Assam, against BJP candidate Surabhi Rajkonwari. Gogoi along with his co-accused tested positive for Covid-19 during their time in prison.

According to Gogoi’s Raijor Dal party member, this case in particular took the longest for the charges to get dropped due to the fact that it was conveniently designed to frame Gogoi as a threat to national security, with the NIA often claiming with little to no evidence that he has ties to banned organisations. Such a case is designed similarly to the cases lodged in the Bhima Koregaon incident under UAPA, where dissenters are arrested and kept in prison, with hardly any evidence, and bail is constantly denied. In Gogoi’s case, supposedly another charge sheet was filed against him in the past few days, however there is not much information on the charges, or if these have been dropped in the hearing on Thursday. News of the new chargesheet came from a letter Gogoi wrote from prison few days ago.

Gogoi, in an interview with The Wire, after his acquittal, stated that director of the NIA as well as Amit Shah should resign for their role played in the various arrests under the UAPA.

“I think after Thursday’s verdict by the NIA court, Union home minister minister Amit Shah should resign because he and his ministry handled all the NIA and UAPA cases. After this historic verdict from the Guwahati judiciary, I think he should go, along with the director-general of the NIA. The same stands for chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma. They should all resign”

Read: Anti-CAA Activist Akhil Gogoi wins Sibsagar seat in Upper Assam

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