Sedition charges framed against Dr Gohain, Akhil, Manjit 

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Charges against Dr Gohain cannot be established: senior cop ** Paresh Baruah warns CM over move against Dr Gohain

HT Bureau

GUWAHATI, Jan 10: Sedition cases were registered on Thursday against noted intellectual and Sahitya Akademi awardee Assamese litterateur Dr Hiren Gohain, Krishak Mukti Sangram Samity (KMSS) adviser Akhil Gogoi and a senior journalist Manjit Mahanta for “waging war against the nation”.

Police suo motu registered a case against them at the Latasil police station here under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) — including 124(A) that deals with charges of sedition and 120 (B) dealing with criminal conspiracy, Guwahati police commissioner Deepak Kumar told reporters.

Dr Gohain, Gogoi and Mahanta have also been booked under IPC sections 121 and 123 — relating to waging or war against the nation, Kumar said.

Kumar said the case was registered against the trio for the comments they made against the bill during a meeting on the controversial bill in Guwahati on January 7.

“The matter is under investigation. The police is examining the video footage before taking any action against them,” he said.

“We are investigating what they spoke during a Nagarik Samaj meeting here on January 7. As of now, this is all that I can tell you,” Kumar said. The trio are part of a civil society group — ‘Nagarik Samaj’ — which is protesting against the bill.

“The video footage of Dr Gohain’s speech was examined. But it is difficult for the police to establish the case against Dr Gohain,” said a senior police official pleading anonymity.

He claimed that that KMSS adviser Akhil Gogoi had clearly mentioned that the people should go for demanding independent Assam if the citizenship Bill is passed in Parliament.

“We will declare sovereignty in Assam. This is an unconstitutional, illegal and unethical bill, so this bill should be immediately scrapped,” Gogoi had said in his speech.

Reacting to the FIR, Dr Gohain, a retired Gauhati University professor, said he came to know that a sedition case has been filed against him, but was not aware on what basis it was registered.“I don’t know the details or on what basis, the case was filed but have heard that allegations have been made against me that I had ‘Independent Assam’ in my speech at the protest meeting on January 7 by the Forum Against Citizenship Act Amendment Bill (FACAAB),” he said.

”I had spoken thrice at the meeting and on all occasions, I had highlighted that citizenship should be on the basis of secular principles and the rightly demand of the Assamese on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill must be achieved by democratic means,” Dr Gohain said.

“Some people raised the question of independent Assam in the meeting. But my answer was that if all democratic struggle by different parties and organisations in the country fail to protect the interest and identity of the Assamese within the framework of the Indian Constitution, then the people will have no choice but to demand an Independent Assam”, he said.

Dr Gohain asserted that the people of Assam are fighting for their “rightful honour” (uchit maryada) and ”we are also fighting to safeguard the constitutional framework of our secular country”.

Lawyer Aroop Borbora, who rushed to Gohain’s residence after the case was registered, alleged that “police has done this suo moto under the provocation of the government and this is an absolutely fabricated case to douse the fire currently engulfing the entire state following the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in Lok Sabha”.

“I was also present in the January 7 meeting that police has cited in the FIR. There was nothing seditious in their speeches. I have asked for a copy of the FIR, which I expect to receive by this evening and proceed accordingly after going through it,” Borbora, who is the lawyer for Gohain told reporters.

“If these three persons are “touched, then the current raging fire will be inflamed further,” he feared.

All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) chief advisor Dr Samujjal Bhattacharya accused the BJP government of ”indulging in anti-national activities by going against the interest of the indigenous people and giving protection to Bangladeshis”.

”We condemn the sedition case filed against a learned intellectual like Dr Gohain whom we hold in high esteem and respect”, Bhattacharyya, who is on the way to Agartala told reporters over phone.

Describing Dr Gohain as “Assam’s great thinker”, Sahitya Akademi awardee and former president of Asam Sahitya Sabha, Dr Nagen Saikia said, “I may not agree with him on some issues but what he thinks is right and he says it with courage”.

“Ignoring the people of Assam against the bill, the central government is trying to stoke thoughts of cessation in the minds of people”, Saikia also said.

“Educated youths are going to ULFA. Instead of extinguishing the revolutionary flame in the people, the government is by itself igniting that fire,” he claimed.

On him being included in the high-level committee set up by the Centre to advise on implementation of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord, Saikia said, “I do not wish to be in the committee. Initially, I thought the government will take the member’s advice and get the bill changed”.

“If the government really wanted to protect the people of Assam, they could have brought a bill in Parliament.” I would have gone if they called us for our advice before introducing it in the House”, Saikia, who is a former member of Rajya Sabha, said.

Meanwhile, the city police has imposed Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure in areas under Dispur, Bhangagarh, Basishta and Hatigaon police stations, banning gathering of more than five people to ensure no protests are held.

Meanwhile, ULFA (I) commander-in-chief, Paresh Baruah, while condemning the move, warned chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal of the situation worsening in the state if the voice of the people who are within their rights to stage a democratic agitation was not heard.

Condemning the government’s move, ULFA (I)’s self-styled c-in-c Paresh Baruah has warned chief minister Sonowal for filing sedition case against scholar Gohain.

It may be mentioned that Gohain has played an important role in the mediation between the Centre and militant outfit, ULFA (I).

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