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Criminalising Protest

Shut the voices that do not speak for them: that is what all non-democratic regimes do. And that happens in demo­cracies too. Or at least it happens in India which makes high claims of its democracy. Sometimes it is done through the state machinery like the police and the armed forces, at other times through the use of proxy forces. The recent attacks on activists Akhil Gogoi of Assam and Ramesh Agarwal of Chhattisgarh in two separate incidents are stark examples of this.

Akhil Gogoi, general secretary of Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), which has been leading several struggles for the peasants of Assam, including the one against the construction of mega-dams in the north-east, has been repeatedly harassed by the state in recent times. He was forcefully evicted from a peaceful protest site not long ago. As the state has failed to suppress the democratic voices led by Gogoi, the recent attack on him seems to be a part of the game plan to neutralise him. On 6 July, Gogoi was on a visit to Punni village in Dharmapur area of the Nalbari district to take stock of the flood situation. While in the area, which is the legislative constituency of the Congress MLA and agriculture and parliamentary affairs minister Nilamani Sen Deka, he was attacked with sticks and sharp weapons by assailants, who are allegedly Congress workers as identified by Gogoi. They are also known to have taken minister Deka’s name with regard to the attacks.

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