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Sedition cases against Assam litterateur, RTI activist, scribe Hiren Gohain

From Our Special Correspondent

GUWAHATI: Assam Police has registered a case against Forum Against Citizenship Act Amendment Bill (FACAAB) chairman and intellectual, Hiren Gohain, on charges of “sedition” while speaking at a public rally against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.
The suo motu case was registered at Latasil police station here under Sections 120(B)/121/123/124(A), alleging that the literary critic and poet had during a speech on December 7 reportedly referred to the demand for an “Independent Assam” (Swadhin Axom).
Speaking to the media on Thursday, Gohain, however, said that he did not know the details or exactly on what basis the FIR was filed against him.
“It is learnt that a case has been registered at Latasil Police station alleging that I had raised the Independent Assam demand. Actually, the topic of Independent Assam was raised in the rally to which I had only reacted by saying that if the democratic measures against the bill did not work and the demand (to scrap the bill) not paid heed to, then the issue of Swadhin Assam demand might come up,” he clarified.
A Sahitya Akademi awardee, Gohain said the agitation against the bill was based on upholding the values of secularism and the Indian Constitution.
Sedition charges have also been slapped on FACAAB convenor, Manjit Mahanta, and Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti leader, Akhil Gogoi.
The move has evoked sharp criticism in literary circles and among a cross-section of society.
Eminent literateur Nagen Saikia said that such an allegation would only sow the seeds for a fresh agitation across Assam. “At a time when the state government should have doused the fire, it is only adding fuel to it,” Saikia said.
Writer Maini Mahanta termed the charge against Gohain as “blatant misinterpration. “I had also taken part in that rally during which a youth had raised the issue. Gohain Sir had replied that now the question of Swadhin Assam did not arise and instead a democratic agitation on the basis of secularism was needed.”
The proscribed United Liberation Front of Asom (Independent) also reacted strongly to the action of the government.
Condemning the government’s move, ULFA (I)’s self-styled C-in-C Paresh Baruah has warned Chief Minister Sonowal for filing sedition case against scholar Gohain.
“If Chief Minister Sonowal does not refrain from such anti-Assamese acts, he will have to face dreadful consequences,” Baruah told a local TV channel over phone.
“Every citizen has the right to register protest in a democratic state. Taking to the streets during the crisis of a nation can never be tantamount to sedition,” said the ULFA (I) chief.
The All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) Adviser, Samujjal Bhattacharrya, has termed the government’s action as “sheer misuse of power.”

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