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Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Who is Akhil Gogoi; why is he important to Assam polls 2021

Akhil Gogoi leads the farmers' body Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) and is now the president of a new regional political party, Raijor Dal, which roughly translates into "People’s Party".

Written by Abhishek Saha | Guwahati |
March 4, 2021 2:29:47 pm
Akhil Gogoi delivers a speech during a protest against the Citizenship Amendment Bill, in Guwahati in 2018. (Express Photo/File)

Akhil Gogoi (45) is a prominent peasants’ rights leader in Assam who is in jail for over a year now. He has been booked by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on charges of sedition and under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) following his involvement in the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests in the state.

The KMSS was instrumental in the 2019 anti-CAA protests in Assam in which five protesters were killed in alleged firing by the state police.

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Gogoi leads the farmers’ body Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) and is now the president of a new regional political party, Raijor Dal, which roughly translates into “People’s Party”. Besides KMSS, it also comprises 70 other ethnic and cultural organisations.

What is Akhil Gogoi’s plan for the Assam elections?

For the upcoming assembly polls, the party is in alliance with another regional party, the AJP, which also owes its origin to the anti-CAA protests.

The Raijor Dal is contesting the elections with a motto of developing a “politically federal, socially inclusive and economically self-reliant” Assam.

Both the Raijor Dal and the AJP have not aligned with the Congress-led ‘grand alliance’ against the BJP.

In a letter written from jail on Tuesday, Gogoi said the regional parties cannot go with the ‘grand alliance’ because the AIUDF — which is led by the MP Badruddin Ajmal and enjoys a large support base in the Bengali-origin Muslim community of Assam — is a part of it. Both the AIUDF and the Congress have reacted sharply to the allegation, and asked Gogoi to cite an instance where the AIUDF have made “communal” statements.

What are the cases against Gogoi?

The FIR by the NIA had accused Gogoi and others of being involved in “terrorist activities” and using the issue of the CAA to allegedly promote enmity between groups. In a raid in December, NIA officials had seized a few books pertaining to Communism, Marxism and Socialism and books related to Mao Zedong and Vladimir Lenin from the KMSS office.

This is not Gogoi’s first confrontation with law enforcement — he has been arrested multiple times earlier during both the Congress and the BJP regime in Assam. Earlier, he and the KMSS have been vocal and protested against land issues in Assam and big dam projects in the state. Since 2017, Gogoi has been booked twice for sedition by Assam Police — on both occasions after inflammatory speeches regarding the CAA.

In an interview with The Indian Express inside the special NIA court in Guwahati, days after his arrest in December 2019, Gogoi had said that charges levelled at him of being a Maoist were “totally false” and he was never with “them”.

Last month, the Supreme Court rejected Gogoi’s petition against a Gauhati High Court order denying him bail.

People close to him say he is likely to contest the Assembly elections while in prison. It remains to be seen how much of a dent the AJP-Raijor Dal alliance will cause to the BJP’s electoral prospects.

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