This is a translation of Akhil Gogoi’s open letter he handed over to his comrades when he was presented before a special National Investigation Agency court in Guwahati on 24 January 2020. Akhil Gogoi, mass peasant leader and RTI activist from Assam, was arrested on 12 December 2019 by Assam Police and later handed over to the NIA. He has been booked under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and a case was registered against him under section 120(B), 124(A), 153(A), 153(B) of the IPC and section 18, 39 of the UAPA. Translated from Axomiya by Biswajit K. Bora
Respected Leadership of Anti-CAA National Organisations,
Revolutionary greetings to all of you from prison. Because I have been incarcerated in judicial custody for a long time, I am in profound mental disturbance, and I humbly convey the following to you in this Byzantine conjuncture for Assam.
We are extremely worried, concerned and apprehensive about the current strand of the people’s movement against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) in Assam. Therefore, despite being held captive inside the red walls of prison, we want to critically yet constructively reflect on it.
We believe that the ongoing anti-CAA movement has strangely become protracted, dawdling, and directionless. The movement has been disgracefully devoured by symbolism. The time is no longer suitable to carry out symbolic protests. At this moment, we need a resolute, unified mass movement that can bring the government to their knees.
Despite our absolute respect toward mass rallies, cultural protests, mass roars, black flag displays, etc., we want to say that these kinds of action programmes at this time will not force the government to change their decision in principle. These action programmes were certainly fruitful against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB), but the nature and character of the movement against the CAA ought to evolve.
We believe that a movement carried out to repeal an act of the parliament ought to be unprecedentedly and overwhelmingly forceful and intense.
What should be the nature and character of this mass movement against the CAA? The people of Assam spontaneously took to the streets and defined the nature and character of this movement on 10th, 11th and 12th of December, 2019. The nature and character of an infallible mass movement could be fathomed out by deducting the incidents of violence from the extraordinary mass awakening we saw erupt all over the state in those three days.
After the historic mass revolt of 10, 11, and 12 December 2019, the most positive attribute of the movement carried forward under the leadership of various national organisations is its peaceful nature. The negative aspect is the dwindling intensity of the earlier mass revolt.
The most significant aspect of that mass revolt was the spontaneous, courageous participation of the revolutionary people of Assam and an independent leadership. In different regions in the state, that mass revolt was led by the local leadership of a community or a group of that region. Afterwards, when the leadership of the established organisations took over the reins, it indeed attained a direction; but the earlier intensity severely dwindled and the government also stopped taking the movement seriously. Instead, the government expressed its complete trust in the movement. It was as if the inherent force of the mass movement to make the communal and monstrous government tremble in fear had diminished suddenly.
Therefore, in order to shake the government in a specious manner, the leadership of the movement had to reiterate the slogan to form an alternate political party and give exaggerated importance to the Supreme Court so that they could convince the people of their intention.
We would have to politically resolve an unconstitutional issue raised politically by violating the country’s constitutional principles and values. Only an inexorable mass movement carried forward on the just path can change such a fascist decision. We acutely feel the absence of such a resolute mass movement in Assam.
The massive tide of the mass revolt of 10, 11, and 12 December 2019 spontaneously gushed out the long-discussed problems that created obstacles to a unified movement by the national organisations of Assam. The mass revolt of those three days was the example of a genuine unified movement of the Assamese nationality. It is however a national irony that the movement post-December 12th could not overcome those limitations. We believe that in order to keep the movement ideologically just and arrive at a just outcome by treading a just path while at the same time ensuring that the people are not betrayed, this national struggle must truly become a relentless, unified mass struggle. The way the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad (AJYCP) and artists in Assam have united, Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), Nagarikatva Xangxodhan Aain Birodhi Mancha [Forum against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act], civil society in Assam, college and university students, people’s organisations, tribal organisations, and other national organisations and crusading writers-intellectuals, as well as the citizens of Assam, must be united too. We believe that it is impossible to achieve our goal without such a unified national struggle.
The Supreme Court has decided to set up a five-judge constitutional bench to hear the petitions filed against the CAA. A constitutional bench is set up so that the matter will be in the court for a prolonged period of time. What it means is that the matter will be kept within the icy Establishment of the court. It is indeed worrying that the Supreme Court refused to put a stay on the CAA. But at the same time, to be overtly jubilant because the issues from Assam and Tripura, two states who have separate state accords will be heard separately is also a sign of political naïveté.
We believe that the decision to form an alternate political party has been announced ahead of time. Such announcements make the sincere sections participating in the mass struggle suspicious, lead to rumour-mongering among the populace, and give chances to the ruling regime to spread misinformation against the trustworthiness of the leadership of the movement. As a result, the movement gets hurt in its core. Our position in this context is that we need an honest and all-inclusive regionalist political party for Assam. To form such a political party in order to banish the fascist, fundamentalist, and communal BJP forever from the social life in Assam and to permanently resolve the national problems of the Assamese nation is the need of the hour. But it must not be done at the cost of jeopardising the ongoing mass struggle. We need this alternate political party as a supplement or extension to this massive, resolute movement. Therefore, the announcement to form such a political party must not come from the leadership; instead, the demand for such a political party must spontaneously come from the people. For the national interest of the Assamese nation, we will have to comprehensively defeat the BJP in the Assam Legislative Assembly election, 2021.
In this crucial moment for Assam, I have been a victim of the government’s well-orchestrated conspiracy and remanded in judicial custody on a false charge. I am deeply distressed and perfervid. By continuously incarcerating me and my comrades, the government plans to shape the current movement according to their wish. We, the people of Assam must unitedly and unrelentingly move ahead toward victory by overthrowing this conspiracy. It is my sincere request to all the comrades and the leadership of all the national organisations in Assam that let all of us collectively transform this moment of crisis of the Assamese nationality into our resource. Against this backdrop of national awakening in Assam, let us take this opportunity to oblige the central government to not only repeal the CAA in toto but also permanently resolve the long-standing national problems of Assam.
Jai Aai Axom