Jailed Assam peasant leader and founder of Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) Akhil Gogoi is showing symptoms of Covid-19 and his health condition is swiftly getting worse, sources say.
The government, however, is yet to make an official announcement and his final test results are reportedly still awaited.
According to sources, Gogoi has tested negative in rapid antigen test while proper test result are still awaited. The state government has said it will provide proper medical support, with minister Chandramohan Patowary saying a group of senior doctors are taking care of the leader.
Two of Gogoi's arrested associates have tested positive for Covid-19 and were first admitted to the Mahendra Mohan Choudhury Hospital (MMCH) on Wednesday night and then were shifted to the Gauhati Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) in the morning. All three activists were lodged at the central jail in Guwahati where an inmate was found positive last month. The test result of another KMSS activist held in the same jail is also awaited.
Gogoi is facing a legal tangle that has denied him bail or interim relief and he has spent almost 200 days behind bars after participating in protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). Reports of his deteriorating health have sparked off campaigns on social media demanding his release. Several people and opposition leaders have slammed the "injustice" towards the peasant leader and accused the government of being vindictive because of his anti-CAA, anti-dam protests.
Gogoi's wife Gitashree Tamuly, who is a college teacher, recently expressed her angst in a Facebook post. “It’s been a few months. There is no TV in the house. A lot of things stay without knowing. Just saw this on Facebook. Akhil is sick, symptoms of Covid. Don’t know what to say. Many people call and ask me if brother is okay? But what do I know? This time there is no news, no phone calls,” she wrote.
The jailed activist's mother Priyada Gogoi also urged the government through the media to release her ailing son or "kill him if his crimes are so big". She has been making one appeal after another for his release.
Akhil's family and KMSS associates have been complaining that they have not heard anything about his situation for the past two months. They said they are not allowed to meet him and recently they heard Akhil was suffering from fever and showing symptoms of Covid-19. They are tense as a few weeks ago the first novel coronavirus case was detected in the jail and it was declared a containment zone.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has lodged a case under sections 120B, 124A, 153A, 153B of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and section 18, and section 39 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 2019, against Gogoi. Besides, there are more than five cases registered against him in different police stations in Sivasagar, Dibrugarh, Jorhat districts, all related to the anti-CAA movement.
Gogoi is facing charges of criminal conspiracy, sedition, promoting enmity between groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc, assertions against national integrity, support to terrorist organisations, etc. In March, an NIA court also decided to take up the case of a violent attack on Chabua police station officer Tulumoni Dowerah during the anti-CAA protests. This case filed by Chabua Police station in Dibrugarh, also for Gogoi's alleged role in inciting violence, was transferred by the state government to the NIA, based on which another case (number 01/2020) was filed by the investigating body.
Before this Akhil Gogoi was granted bail by a special NIA court on March 17 in a case in which he was accused of being a ‘Maoist’ as the agency was not able to file a charge sheet within the period of the 90 days of the accused's stay in jail. On March 16, the NIA had sought an extension of another 90 days to file the charge sheet but the court had rejected the petition and Gogoi was granted bail. As he was being held at Guwahati's central jail, Gogoi was then taken into custody by Sivasagar police on March 19 where he remained for four days. He was arrested by Sivasagar police from Guwahati central jail for anti-CAA related violence with "illegal assembly of people in Sivasagar dist". On March 28, he got bail in this case. As there is a series of cases lined up against the peasant leader for his role in the anti-CAA protests his imprisonment has triggered many conspiracy theories .
Denial of bail to Akhil Gogoi has brought accusations from different quarters against the Assam government of taking a casual approach towards providing proper medical treatment to the jailed leader and his associates.