Citizenship Bill: Academic Hiren Gohain & Two Others Charged With Sedition For Opposing The Bill
As dissent grows against the contentious Citizenship(Amendment) Bill, 2016 that was passed in the Lok Sabha on January 8, the Assam police have booked three prominent activists under sedition charges. The cases have been registered against three activists – Prominent Assam academic Hiren Gohain(80), peasant rights activist Akhil Gogoi(42) and journalist Manjit Mahanta(50) on Monday. The police have alleged that on January 7, in a meeting that was held to oppose the Centre’s decision on the bill some controversial statements were made which led to the activist’s arrest.
An FIR has been registered under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) section 144(unlawful assembly) at the Latasil police station, Guwahati after the state police took suo moto cognisance in the case.
“The move is dowsing fire with the fuel”
A vocal opponent of the BJP and RSS, Akhil Gogoi while talking about the January 7 meeting said that he along with the Left Democratic Front was present at the Jana Sabha(public meeting) organised by the citizens’ forum. He said that the meeting was organised to protest the Citizenship bill that has not considered the interests of Assam and its indigenous people.
He further said that at the gathering “unfortunately” 2-3 youths, who were in the audience got “emotional” and raised the demand for the Assam’s independence because of the government’s nonchalant behaviour.
“I got up twice to silence them, told them that the question of Assam’s independence can’t come before exhausting all the democratic means of raising one’s voice against the Centre’s decision.” Additionally, he said, “I didn’t support them but told them the way to go about it by using all democratic means.”
He claimed that after the meeting some RSS men pressurised the government to act against him and others. He said that this made police file an FIR against the activists.
While criticising the government, he said that this government is fascist, and it is an emergency like situation in the country. He added that the government is trying to stop the people who are against the bill and “hence this case”. He claimed that he had not said anything which is seditious and he is ready to fight the case. He further said that he never used the words “secession” or “armed struggle” in the meeting.
He added, “I had mentioned that people will ‘think’ of recourse if they do not get required powers within India’s existing federal structure. And I stand by that statement.”
Journalist and convenor of an anti-Citizenship Bill Forum in the state, Mahanta, also condemned the government’s actions. While talking to The Indian Express, he said that the allegations against them are false.
“We never said that people should demand sovereignty or independence. We said that if the attack on Assamese continues, then such a situation might come.” Claiming that the police move would act against the government, he said that he said that If the government wants to douse the fire with petrol, that won’t help.
Many people also took on to the twitter to condemn the activist’s arrest
“The amended bill passed on Jan. 8 makes it clear that Muslims are not welcome in India, and it’s a very transparent attempt to stoke religious polarization before general elections scheduled for April-May.” @RanaAyyub https://t.co/iozO3R2ZWp
— Mira Kamdar (@mirakamdar) January 10, 2019
Those charged with sedition in Assam for opposing Citizenship Bill incl Left intellectual Hiren Gohain, 80-yr-old and 1989 Sahitya Akademi awardee..
If Gohain is seditious, so would I, and many, many others be..
This Citizenship Act is an abomination..https://t.co/c81g4y4n0R
— Shekhar Gupta (@ShekharGupta) January 10, 2019
Citizenship (Amendment) Bill passed by Lok Sabha is not just about Assam. It is a challenge to the idea of India. BJP is reviving Jinnah's two-nation theory.
Please read and share this article of mine. https://t.co/ToP2mHS7jJ
— Yogendra Yadav (@_YogendraYadav) January 10, 2019
#CitizenshipBill2016 #NRC #HinduBangladeshi #Assamese #AASU #Modi #WeOpposeCitizenshipAmendmentBill2016 #BADAN #CitizenshipAmendmentBill #Assam #IOpposeCitizenshipAmendmentBill2016 #NeAgainstCitizenshipBill pic.twitter.com/QOhqYB9VWQ
— Cartoonist Nituparna Rajbongshi (@NituparnaRaj) January 10, 2019
The police response
After the case was filed against the people the Guwahati police commissioner Deepak Kumar told the media that the case has been registered under IPC Section 124A dealing with sedition, besides Sections 120B (criminal conspiracy), 121 (waging war against the government) and 123 (concealing with intent to facilitate design to wage war), against the three of them. He further said that the investigations are going on.
Latasil police said they are “presently examining” the footage of the meeting and claimed that police permission was not taken to organise the public rally. Gohain said, “The police haven’t come to my residence yet.”
Strangely, the former state DGP Harekrishna Deka, was also a member of the citizens’ forum. He is also a petitioner in the Supreme Court case against the Bill and was present at the meeting.
The Protest against the bill
On December 8, many protests were staged in northern states to protest against the bill, and six protestors got injured in Agartala firing, reported The Times Of India.
The protesters claim that the citizenship bill would allow the entry of illegal Hindu migrants from Bangladesh, who came to the state after March 1971, in violation of the Assam Accord, 1985. The tribals and other ethnic communities in the state have been protesting against the issue of illegal migrants from a long time. Those who oppose the migration claim that the, if the illegal migrants would be allowed in the state, they (migrants) would take away the resources of the natives of the state. They also fear that the illegal migrants will irrevocably dilute the strength of the indigenous Assamese population, reports The Indian Express.