Facebook users in Assam turn uncomfortable as sharing a picture of Lenin or writing words like ‘Lal Salam‘ and ‘Comrade’ can now land you in jail under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), as per National Investigation Agency (NIA)’s chargesheet against Akhil Gogoi‘s associate – Bittu Sonowal. After arresting the Right to Information (RTI) activist Akhil Gogoi in December last year for his alleged role in anti-CAA protests in Assam, NIA arrested Sonowal and two other aides of Gogoi under various charges of the UAPA in January this year.Also Read - Centre Urges States to Impose Lockdown-like Restrictions in Districts Reporting Positivity Rate Above 10%
According to Outlook, NIA filed a chargesheet against Sonowal on May 29 which mentioned that he had uploaded one photo of Communist icon Vladimir Lenin with the words, , “The Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them”. However, Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti president Bhasco Saikia told the news agency, “The NIA wants to establish that Akhil Gogoi (who is KMSS’s advisor) is a maoist but they couldn’t give any concrete evidence. They also mentioned about the books on Maoism. The NIA had seized books like ‘An Introduction to Socialism’ and ‘Communist Manifesto’ among others. These books were bought from open market. This is ridiculous.” Also Read - Assam Ends Border Dispute With Nagaland Amid Row With Mizoram, Himanta Calls It ‘Historic Move’
An uproar erupted on social media as users pointed out that even freedom fighter like Bhagat Singh used words like ‘Comrade’ in his letters “To Young Political Workers”. While one user lashed, “Can you imagine someone like Bhagat Singh living in these times? Assam Govt & NIA would have put him behind bars under UAPA for using the word ‘Comrade’ in his letters! (sic)”, another agitated, “Bhagat Singh was reading lenin’s book, if he were here would he be jailed under UAPA? (sic)” and public interest lawyer and activist, Prashant Bhushan, tweeted, “NIA Cites Activist’s Use of Lenin’s Photo, Words Like ‘Lal Salam,’ Comrade’ to Justify UAPA Charges! So being a Marxist & believing in equality means you’re a terrorist according to NIA. Soon being secular will also be so.If not a bhakt you’re a terrorist! (sic).” Also Read - Assam-Mizoram Border Row: 'Will be Happy to Join Probe, But...', Himanta Sarma Reacts to FIR Against Him
Check out Twitter’s reaction on the news here:
After the investigating agency, within the specified period of 90 days, failed to file a chargesheet against him under UAPA, Gogoi was granted bail on March 17 by a special NIA court. However, two days later, he was arrested again.