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Gauhati HC grants bail to student held for Facebook post ‘in support of ULFA-I’

The FIR against the student, Barshashree Buragohain, also stated that she had “accepted” that the Facebook post was written by her. The post, however, made no mention of the banned outfit.

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). (Photo: Facebook/@ junte.buragohain)

The Gauhati High Court Thursday granted bail to 19-year-old student Barshashree Buragohain, who was arrested from Golaghat in Assam on May 18 under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for a Facebook post allegedly “in support of the banned United Liberation Front of Asom-Independent (ULFA-I)”.

Buragohain is likely to walk out of Golaghat district jail Friday, Buragohain’s counsel Atul Dihingia said.

“We argued that she had just made a Facebook post and she was not connected to a banned organisation in any way,” Dihingia told The Indian Express, adding that the court had asked Buragohain to sign an undertaking that she would “refrain from making such posts in the future”. She has been granted bail against a bail bond of Rs 25,000.

Buragohain, a second-year student of Mathematics at a college in Jorhat, was arrested when she was visiting a friend in Golaghat on May 18 and charged under Sections 10 (Penalty for being member of an unlawful association) and 13 (Punishment for unlawful activities) of the UAPA after the district police took suo moto cognizance of a post updated on her Facebook profile the day before.

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As per the FIR, accessed by The Indian Express, a verse in Assamese by Buragohain read, “Swadhin xurujor dixe akou ekhuj, Akou korim rastro druh (One more step towards the sun of freedom, Once again, I will commit treason)”, an implicit endorsement of the ULFA-I. It talked of 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. The post, however, made no mention of the banned outfit.

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

Last week, following an outrage over being in jail, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma claimed Buragohain was arrested as she had shown an intention of joining the ULFA-I. “She was not arrested for writing a poem. It has been wrongly interpreted on social media. When the Golaghat police interrogated her, she said that she had intentions of joining the outfit (ULFA). If she had not been arrested, she would have joined the ULFA. She is one of our own and it is our responsibility to save her,” he had said.

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On July 14, Golaghat-based lawyer Partha Jyoti Bora had moved an application on the behalf of Buragohain appealing to a local court to allow her to sit for her semester exams between July 16 and August 1. The court asked the jail authorities to make the necessary arrangements.

Buragohain, daughter of daily wagers, hails from a very poor family in Jorhat’s Teok. Following the Thursday judgment, her brother Arindom told The Indian Express that the family was “relieved” that the court had granted bail. “In future, if the government feels youngsters are going astray, they should attempt counselling them first. Arresting one-two rebellious teens for a mere Facebook post will not solve the larger problem.”

First published on: 21-07-2022 at 05:06:54 pm
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