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Assam student in jail for alleged ‘pro-ULFA’ Facebook post; family demands release

Following demands to release her, the Assam Police Special DGP (law and order) G P Singh in a statement on Wednesday said "due process was being followed".

Barshashree Buragohain, 19, a second-year student of Mathematics at a Jorhat college, was arrested from Golaghat on May 18, and charged under sections 10 and 13 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).

Amid outrage over the arrest of a college student, who has been in jail since May over a Facebook post allegedly “in support of the banned United Liberation Front of Asom-Independent (ULFA-I)”, the Assam Police said that the “law would take its own course.”

Barshashree Buragohain, 19, a second-year student of Mathematics at a Jorhat college, was arrested from Golaghat on May 18, and charged under sections 10 and 13 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) after the district police took suo motu cognisance of a post updated on her Facebook profile a day before. She is lodged in the Golaghat district jail. The case is being currently heard at the Gauhati High Court, and the next hearing is slated for July 21.

As per the FIR, accessed by The Indian Express, the lines written in Assamese by Buragohain ‘Swadhin xurujor dixe akou ekhuj, Akou korim rastro druh’ (One more step toward the sun of freedom, Once again, I will commit treason) were an implicit endorsement of the ULFA-I and pointed towards a larger “criminal conspiracy” and “intent to wage war against the Indian government.” The FIR also stated that Buragohain had “accepted” that she had written the post.

Following demands to release her, the Assam Police Special DGP (law and order) G P Singh in a statement on Wednesday said “due process was being followed”. Singh cited the words “akou korim rastro druh” (I will commit treason) and said that Buragohain had made a “specific call to indulge in waging war”.

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“When someone publicly professes support for a banned organisation and declares the intent of waging war against the Indian state, we are legally bound to prosecute that person. Following due process, a charge sheet shall be filed in a competent court of law. Let the law take its own course,” the senior police officer said.

A Dihingia, Buragohain’s counsel, told The Indian Express that the word “ULFA-I” was not used anywhere in the post. “The post has been linked to the outfit because it mentioned ‘sun’ — which is the symbol of the ULFA-I,” he said.

Buragohain hails from a very poor family in Jorhat’s Teok, her lawyer said.

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The flag of Paresh Baruah-led ULFA-I, which has long fought for the secession of Assam from India, has a red sun against a yellow and green backdrop.

Her brother Arindom told The Indian Express that she was “suddenly arrested” when she was visiting a friend in a neighbouring town in May. “I do not know what she wrote exactly but she keeps writing on Facebook. But we know that she is not connected to any anti-national group or the ULFA. My father is a daily wager, we are going through a very hard time,” he said.

Arindom added that when he met his sister in jail recently, she told him that she had done nothing wrong and “only written a poem”. “Her exams are scheduled for July 16 and she is very keen on sitting for them.”

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Meanwhile, intellectuals and Opposition leaders have demanded Buragohain’s release. Congress MP Abdul Khaleque said, “I demand Buragohain’s release who has been arrested for writing a revolutionary poem.”

Another Congress parliamentarian Pradyut Bordoloi also demanded her release. “Barkhashree is a budding poetess who has been expressing her indomitable free-flowing spirits through letters but has never said or done anything that falls into the realm of terrorism or can be described as anti-Indian. #ReleaseBarkhashree” he tweeted.

Noted litterateur Arupa Patangia Kalita said she was “hurt, angry and upset” that a “young girl had been incarcerated for an ordinary revolutionary poem”. “All citizens should stand up in support of free speech.”

First published on: 14-07-2022 at 01:30:51 pm
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