Jailed peasants’ rights activist Akhil Gogoi won the Sibsagar constituency in the Assam Assembly elections. Gogoi is in jail since December 2019 after he staged a sit-in protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act.

The 45-year-old defeated Bharatiya Janata Party candidate Surabhi Rajkonwari by 11,875 votes.

Gogoi is the president of the Raijor Dol but had contested as an Independent. The Raijor Dol is contesting the polls along with Asom Jatiya Parishad, which was launched by the All Assam Students’ Union and the Asom Jatiyotabadi Chhatra Parishad – the two largest and most influential of nationalist student outfits in the state. The parties had united to fight the polls as a combined anti-CAA forum against the BJP.

Gogoi is currently admitted to the Guwahati Medical College Hospital and had filed his nomination from the medical facility, reported the Hindustan Times. He could not campaign for the polls.

Kaustabh Deka, professor of political science at the Dibrugarh University, told the newspaper that Gogoi’s win was one of the “rare instances” where just the persona of the candidate was able to secure a win. “It was an emotional campaign and lot of effort was put into it,” Deka said. “Due to Gogoi’s popularity, several people from outside the constituency had stationed themselves in Sibsagar and worked in a coordinated manned with Raijor Dal workers to secure his win.”

His 85-year old mother Priyada, other family members along with Raijor Dol workers and activists of Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, a farm workers’ organisation formerly led by Gogoi, had campaigned on his behalf, reported The Print.

“Akhil has not been with me for one and a half years,” she had told The Print earlier. “The government has held my son captive for no reason; they couldn’t even give any evidence. The mothers, brothers and sisters of Assam are his own, like his family... They have really given me strength, they shed tears for my son.”

Although Gogoi won from his seat, his party failed to win any seats in the polls. The BJP is set to retain power in Assam after winning 60 seats. Its allies, the Asom Gana Parishad won nine and the United People’s Party Liberal secured six seats.

Akhil Gogoi’s case

The activist was placed under preventive custody on December 12, 2019 after his protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act. The National Investigation Agency had said that Gogoi was booked for “waging a war against the nation”, conspiracy and rioting. Three days after his arrest, the activist was charged under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.

The Citizenship Amendment Act, approved by Parliament on December 11, 2019, provides citizenship to refugees from six minority religious communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, on the condition that they have lived in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014. It has been widely criticised for excluding Muslims. The Act sparked huge protests across the country.

Gogoi was granted bail in October and the Gauhati High Court upheld the verdict in April. However, he is yet to get bail in another case lodged against him by the investigative agency.