Guwahati: A National Investigation Agency (NIA) court on Thursday cleared Assam activist and Sibsagar MLA Akhil Gogoi in the last case pending against him related to the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) violence in the state in December 2019.
Gogoi walked out of the Gauhati Medical College and Hospital, where he was being treated for various ailments after the court sent the release order to the Guwahati Central Jail.
“Truth has finally prevailed, though no efforts were spared to keep me behind the bars,” the Raijor Dal chief told reporters after his release.
Following his release, Gogoi is expected to visit the home of Sam Stafford, the 17-year-old student who died in police firing during protests against the new citizenship legislation in 2019.
“From there, I will visit the offices of Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti and Raijor Dal today. I will leave for my constituency Sivasagar tomorrow early in the morning and thank people for electing me while I was in prison,” he said.
Gogoi was first arrested on December 12, 2020 in Jorhat following an anti-CAA rally. His case was shifted to the NIA two days later and he was booked on charges of sedition and under provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) for allegedly being an overground worker of the banned CPI (Maoist).
Several cases were filed against Gogoi in police stations in towns across Assam — Sibsagar, Dibrugarh, Gaurisagar, Teok, Jorhat — following the violence, out of which two (Chandmari and Chabua) were taken over by the NIA. In both cases, he was charged with sedition and UAPA, among other offences.
Gogoi was cleared of all cases against him, including the Chabua case, last month. The bail plea for the Chandmari case, however, was rejected by the Gauhati High Court in January and later by the Supreme Court in February, his lawyers said. After Gogoi was cleared in the Chabua case in June, the NIA had introduced a supplementary chargesheet in the Chandmari case.
“But today he has been discharged and is free of all charges. It’s a 120-page judgment. The court said that the witnesses were not found to be worthy in the chargesheet filed,” said advocate Gogoi.
In the Chandmari case, Gogoi was booked under various charges including Sections 120B, 124A, 153B IPC and Sections 18 and 39 of the UAPA. Gogoi’s associates from the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, the peasant organisation he founded — Manas Konwar, Dharjya Konwar and Bittu Sonowal — were also accused in the FIR. All of them have been cleared.
Gogoi has for long been agitating for the rights of peasants in Assam. He has also been vocal about land rights issues, evictions, big dam projects, among others. In the state elections this year, Gogoi, who leads the newly formed regional party Raijor Dal, became the first jailed leader in Assam to win an Assembly election. He won from the Sibsagar seat in Upper Assam with a margin of 11,875 votes.
In July 2020, Gogoi was admitted to the Gauhati Medical College and Hospital after testing positive for Covid-19. Following that, he has remained in the hospital because of other health issues. Last week, he was granted a 48-hour parole to visit his ailing mother, Priyada Gogoi, 84. Her involvement in Gogoi’s election campaign is believed to have given it a big boost, leading to his victory.
Bhasco De Saikia, working president, Raijor Dal, said, “The court’s ruling just proves that the government was trying to target Gogoi and keep him in prison for political reasons. This is a big step and significant for the independence of the judiciary.”