KMSS activists undertake the padayatra from Merapani in Golaghat district to Guwahati on Tuesday to demand Akhil Gogoi’s release. Picture by UB Photos
Guwahati/Golaghat, March 4: Intellectuals, lawyers and student organisations of Assam today condemned the way KMSS leader Akhil Gogoi and five of his associates were arrested for “abetting” a self-immolation while 110 KMSS activists from Merapani in Golaghat district undertook a padayatra to Guwahati demanding release of their leaders.
Social scientist Hiren Gohain condemned the “harassment” of Akhil and his family during his arrest in the wee hours of Sunday. Akhil’s lawyer Bijan Mahajan questioned why the KMSS leaders were not issued summons before their arrest according to the provisions of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, which was brought in after the Delhi gang rape case.
“I am against self-immolation and don’t believe that Akhil had abetted the same. The court of law will decide that. There is a need of peaceful movement to force the government to honour people’s rights,” Gohain said.
The group addressed around 1,000 KMSS members who had gathered in front of Dighalipukhuri in Guwahati opposing Akhil’s arrest. It also held chief minister Tarun Gogoi responsible for KMSS member Pranab Boro’s self-immolation as the government did not agree to offer pattas to hill dwellers despite repeated dharnas and protests.
“We have faith in the rule of law. Arrest Tarun Gogoi with immediate effect,” read a banner held up by members of KMSS’s student wing — Saatra Mukti Sangram Samiti.
Mahajan said, “According to Section 41A (subsection 3) of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013, police have to issue summons to persons before arrest. If he or she fails to come to the police, the latter can go ahead with the arrest with a warrant. But the Guwahati police did not follow the law even as Akhil was not absconding. They should have issued summons to Akhil instead of arresting him the way they did. It seems the police here do not know the law.”
Mahajan had moved bail petitions for Akhil and five other KMSS members, hours after they were arrested on Sunday on charges of abetting the self-immolation of Boro.
“According to government statistics, 350 farmers had committed suicide in our state in the past two years but no action was taken on those who had abetted them. Akhil’s arrest is a political conspiracy as the KMSS has been carrying out a movement against the government’s wrongful acts and there is no strong Opposition party,” educationist Dinesh Baishya said.
In Golaghat district, 110 members of Saatra Mukti Sangram Samiti and Nari Mukti Sangram Samiti (women’s wing) started a long march on foot from Merapani town, situated along the Assam-Nagaland border, to Guwahati. The march started at 1.30pm yesterday and will cover a distance of 325km to reach Guwahati. It is being led by Pabitra Bratdaimary, working president of the KMSS, and Prasanta Chutia, secretary of Doyang Mukti Sangram Samiti.
“Through this long march to Guwahati we want to convey to the government that no adversity can weaken the will power of the KMSS and we shall not rest until the release of Akhil,” Bratdaimary said.
Hundreds of KMSS members also staged a dharna in Dibrugarh today.
On March 6, 2005, the KMSS had undertaken a similar march from Guwahati to Tengani in Golaghat district demanding land rights for forest dwellers and farmers in Doyang and Tengani.
In 2002, a largescale eviction drive was conducted by the forest department in Tengani. Later it sparked the movement for granting pattas to the inhabitants. The Tengani area has a total of 42 villages whereas Doyang has 11 gaon panchayats under it. See Metro