Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Arresting An Activist

The arrest of Akhil Gogoi has given rise to a large number of protests and demonstrations across the state in Assam. On Saturday and Sunday, a state-wide bandh and a railways-blockade respectively were supported by the people, despite the obstructionist attempts by Congress workers to undermine the momentum of the struggle. Yesterday, at least a thousand activists courted arrest at various police stations, demanding the release of the KMSS leader. This movement is the outcome of the land agitations precipitated by the government's displacement and demolition policies. All those involved in the land agitation find themselves in the struggle to release Akhil from judicial custody.

The government's stand is absolutely illegal. The displacement of forest dwellers in the hills surrounding the city is illegal under the Forest Rights Act, as those who have come into possession of land in these forest areas before 2005 cannot be displaced and those who have taken up land there after that year require rehabilitation. The government has violated the law by indiscriminately attempting to mow down the houses of all occupants without regard for the legality of their status. Moreover, several observers claim that the violence that erupted during the demonstrations led by the KMSS was the handiwork of government agents planted there to disrupt the peaceful protests and allow a large-scale police assault on protesters. The arrest of Akhil Gogoi thereafter was plain political vendetta.

The government continues to violate forest laws by handing over tracts of forest land to various business entities in Tezpur and Jorabat, for example, and yet it is determined to take away land from the poor residents of the hills surrounding Guwahati.

The imposition of Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code here is yet another autocratic and anti-democratic move by the government. This government's mandate is seriously compromised.

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