October 2 does not seem to have lost its relevance for revolutionaries and crusaders fighting against a repressive regime. This year, the birthday celebrations of Mahatma Gandhi started off with the arrest of Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) leader Akhil Gogoi, in connection with instigating people while an eviction drive was taking place near Kaziranga National Park in September.
Akhil has been at the forefront of the fight to protect the rights of a certain section of the indigenous population who have become an anathema for a section of the political class. The current right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party government in power looks at the current immigration issue with the skewed communal glasses that it seems to be incapable of shedding.
The government started targeting the marginalised Muslims in general (the Bengali-speaking ones in particular). The Bengali-speaking Muslims have always faced resistance from the populace in their attempts at assimilation. However, this time, the rhetoric found support from government sanction when around 190 families from Banderdubi and 160 families from Deochurchang were evicted from their homes. Even though these ‘illegal immigrants’ had been residing there for over 50 years with proper land entitlements granted to them in 1961. Yet, the government machinery failed to acknowledge the same and in an unprecedented communal act, drove them out of their homes in a matter of hours. A few ‘Assamese’ families who were unfortunate enough to reside in the vicinity of the ‘illegal immigrants’ had to become victims of collateral damage.
The government was acting as per the order of the Gauhati High Court. However, one should not fail to grasp the simple truth that the government’s attempts to carry out the High Court’s order fitted perfectly into its agenda of victimisation of Muslims. When this issue was raised by Akhil Gogoi, the flaming government falcon swooped down upon its dissenter. He was again arrested in early November in connection with a 10-year-old case for which even summons had not been issued, according to the KMSS. The irony is that the leadership of the BJP which has always claimed to have been a victim during the Emergency has adopted almost all tools of that era. The rise in the culture of arrest and unjustified captivity are the explicit indicators of what I call the rise of ‘communal fascism’. There has seldom been any other government which has dealt with criticism and dissent with such gargantuan force. Akhil Gogoi was eventually granted bail on December 16, after spending more than two months in Golaghat jail.
It is a tragedy of post independent India that the rest of the nation has often remained oblivious to the problems and issues of Assam. Akhil Gogoi’s arrest and re-arrest is a fine example of the same. This fascistic facet of the Assam government’s actions has been relegated to the footnotes of the mainstream media’s coverage and so has the plight of the evicted people. Akhil Gogoi has always been a strong voice of opposition in Assam. He contributed massively when it came to opposing the privatisation of oil fields or for that matter the issue of price rise of various material commodities. He has vehemently opposed the government’s agenda of granting citizenship to Bangladeshi Hindus. He has understood the economic, political and linguistic inconsistencies and also the rift between the concerned groups. The same is clear in the words in his letter. “Will not this dangerous decision of the Central and the Assam government push us towards a permanent civil war?” It seems that the recent incarceration of Akhil Gogoi has close ties to his opposition to the vicious attempt of the incumbent BJP government to push its Hindutva agenda.