Peasants’ rights activist and Assam MLA Akhil Gogoi on Friday said that his imprisonment under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act proved that the anti-terror law could be misused, PTI reported.
Gogoi was released from jail on Thursday after a special National Investigation Agency court cleared him in the second of the two cases filed against him under the UAPA in connection with anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests in Assam. He had been in jail since December 2019.
Gogoi and two of his associates were acquitted in the first UAPA case last month.
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.
“My case proves the gross misuse of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the NIA Act,” the activist and MLA said. “The verdict will be a milestone for those arrested through the misuse of the two legislations.”
Gogoi described the National Investigation Agency as a political tool of the Bharatiya Janata Party. He added that the court’s judgement showed that the pressure of the executive was not permanent.
The activist referred to Thursday’s verdict as a miracle, according to The Indian Express. “I had never thought a strong, brave and historic verdict like this could come from the Indian judiciary especially during the rule of the BJP, where its [judiciary’s] role has been perceived as so weak in recent years,” he told the newspaper.
Gogoi claimed that the agency had wanted to file a fresh case against him even on the day of the verdict. “But by the time they reached the court with the appeal, the verdict was already out,” he told PTI.
The activist claimed that the National Investigation Agency had offered him bail on the condition that he join the BJP or the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, according to PTI.
“When they took me into custody, their only question was whether I would join the RSS,” he said. “Not once had they asked anything about my alleged links with Maoists.”
Gogoi said that after he refused to become a part of the RSS, an officer suggested that he join the BJP and become a minister. “I refused that too,” Gogoi said. “He then said that I would be jailed for 10 years.”
The activist told PTI that the anti-CAA movement in Assam would resume with his release from jail. “No (illegal) foreigner will be allowed to stay in the state,” he added.
Gogoi had been jailed in December 2019 for leading a protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act outside the deputy commissioner’s office in Jorhat in Assam. The NIA accused Gogoi of waging a war against the nation, conspiracy and rioting.
Twelve cases were filed against him across Assam after violence broke out during the protests. Of these, two cases registered in Chandmari and Chabua were taken over by the NIA in 2020. The investigation agency added UAPA charges to the cases. On June 23, Gogoi was cleared in the Chabua case.