Guwahati: Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) founder and social rights activist Medha Patkar visited Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) leader Akhil Gogoi in Guwahati Central Jail on Wednesday. Even though he’s in jail, Gogoi is determined to continue protesting so that there is no discrimination in the name of religion or violation of the Constitution, Patkar said.
The peasant leader was arrested in December last year during anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) protests in the state and is being investigated by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).
Patkar, who earlier this month called CAA a divisive move by the Centre, was accompanied by Ramon Magsaysay awardee Sandeep Pandey, who too is openly vocal against the new citizenship law.
Addressing the media, Patkar said, “Akhil Gogoi and members of KMSS are staying very strong in jail, and their mindset remains the same of standing with the public.”
Further, she added that the NIA investigation being carried against KMSS is not reliable. “We see that for 10 days they were taken to New Delhi and questioned by NIA. But for which incident are they being investigated as a national traitor and tried under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, we don’t understand. This appears to be a political move to drag the investigation.”
“If he had ever taken the path of violence for protests then several people would have been killed. Instead of investigating the death of the five people who died during anti-CAA protests [in Assam], they are investigating Gogoi,” she added.
The NIA raided the KMSS office and took a book titled Introduction to Socialism. Patkar said, “Socialism is mentioned in the preamble of our Constitution. Is it illegal to talk, read, or write about socialism?”
She opined that CAA will lead to riots, violence and division in the society.
Commenting on the demand for Inner Line Permit (ILP) in parts of Northeast, the social rights activist said that ILP cannot be proved practical. She gave the exemplar of Maharashtra where Shiv Sena once had raised the issue of reservation and not giving employment to people from Madras [Chennai] which was not successful.
She said, “When the country is one, and borders are not international boundary, stopping people is not possible.”
Talking about big dams in Northeast like the Lower Subansiri Dam and Mapithel Dam which have seen widespread protests, the NBA founder said: “The kind of destruction big dams bring, the government never compensates for it.”
Meanwhile, social rights activist Sandeep Pandey said that CAA is without any head or leg, and it violates the Constitution.
Taking a dig at the fact that one doesn’t have to show any documents for gaining citizenship under the new citizenship act, he cited the example of Bollywood star Dharmendra, who converted to Islam so that he can marry Hema Malini as his second wife without having to divorce his first wife. He highlighted that many people do not change names after changing their religion, which is a major loophole in the new law among others.
Further, he gave an exemplar of the US where there are over 1 crore illegal immigrants from Mexico but they contribute to the economy. Though they do not have citizenship, they are given permission for driving licence
Likewise, he suggested that if people are moving into the country for earning a daily wage, then they must be given a work permit instead of citizenship.