Akhil Gogoi to campaign against UAPA
Anti-CAA crusader and Sivasagar MLA Akhil Gogoi, who walked out of judicial custody after over 18 months on July 1, has announced he will launch a nationwide campaign for scrapping the “draconian” Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act which is being “used” to target activists across the country.
The trigger for the proposed campaign has been the death of 84-year-old Jesuit priest and tribal rights activist Father Stan Swamy, who died in a Mumbai hospital on Monday while in judicial custody.
Akhil has also decided a tentative launch date — August 15 — because he will be busy with the month-long Assembly session starting July 12. “I have started discussions with like-minded people and organisations. I am looking at a August 15 launch given the significance of the day,” he said on Thursday evening.
Besides the anti-UAPA campaign, the 46-year-old Akhil, said he would also mobilise opinion to ensure that the National Investigation Agency (NIA) was used only for what it was set up — probing terror-related cases — and not as a “political tool” against activists and freedom of expression. Akhil told The Telegraph that the death of Fr Stan should be an eye-opener for everyone.
“Father Stan was charged under the UAPA. He died fighting for bail. I was also charged under the UAPA but eventually both cases filed by the NIA against me collapsed and I was discharged. I was also accused of Maoist links but the special NIA court said there were no prima facie materials to frame charges against me.”
Fr Stan was arrested by the NIA under the UAPA in 2020 in connection with the Bhima Koregaon-Elgar Parishad case.
Akhil, who won the Sivasagar seat in the last Assembly elections held in March-April this year from judicial custody, was slapped with sedition and UAPA charges after his arrest on December 19, 2019, for allegedly fomenting violence during the peak of the anti-CAA protests in Assam. As many as 13 cases, including the two NIA cases, were slapped against him. He has obtained bail in the remaining 11 cases.
The first-time MLA also came down heavily on chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma for justifying the strategy of policemen to shoot at criminals/accused attacking/fleeing from custody.
Sarma had said on July 5 during the first-ever conference of officers-in-charge here that there should be zero tolerance against such accused/criminals.
“It should be the pattern if somebody tries to attack or flee from police custody. The law allows to shoot a criminal/accused on the leg, not on the chest, if an accused tries to flee or fire back... when there are no other ways to stop them,” Sarma, who also holds the home portfolio, had said.
Akhil countered Sarma’s views. “Since June 22, there have been 12 such incidents, of police firing at accused/criminals. These are signs of our state moving towards a dictatorial regime. Today they are firing at accused but what is the guarantee they will not fire at political opponents in future?,” Akhil asked.