Raijor Dal Chief and RTI activist Akhil Gogoi shot to limelight in 2005 when he exposed a PDS scam in his hometown Golaghat.
A close associate of Anna Hazara, Akhil Gogoi has been relentlessly fighting corruption in Assam, for which he was awarded the Shanmugam Manjunath Integrity Award in 2008. He was also awarded the national Right to Information (RTI) Award by Public Cause Research Foundation (PCRF) in 2010.
Born in Jorhat, Gogoi (45) pursued his BA in English literature from the prestigious Cotton College in 1996. He founded the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) in 2005, an organisation fighting for peasant rights. It was formed amidst a forest rights movement in the Doiang-Tengani area of Golaghat.
Often dubbed as an RTI activist, Gogoi had turned his peasant organisation into an anti-graft crusader as he exposed corruption by obtaining evidence pertaining to the cause.
It may not be wrong to say that his life mostly revolved around protests and fighting for people’s rights.
On May 2011, Gogoi amassed support from a large section of the people of Assam including Anna Hazare, Swami Agnivesh and Kiren Bedi during an anti-graft rally.
The same year, he led a violent mob to Dispur secretariat following an eviction drive in and around Guwahati hills. During the protest, clashes erupted with the police, leaving three dead and over 40 injured including policemen.
Gogoi has also been leading state-wide protests since 2009 demanding shelving of dam projects in ecologically fragile and tectonically sensitive in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
When ‘CAA’ happened..
Fast forward to 2019, Akhil Gogoi was arrested from Jorhat as a ‘preventive measure’ amid violent protests against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), which is now an Act.
He was booked under the stringent Unlawful Assembly Prevention Act (UAPA) by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) for igniting the protests against the new bill.
The NIA said he was slapped with the stringent law for “waging a war against the nation”.
UAPA empowers the government to designate an individual as a “terrorist” if he or she is found to be committing, preparing for, promoting, or being involved in an act of terrorism.
Gogoi was however granted bail after the NIA failed to file a chargesheet against him in the specified 90-day time-limit.
Two days later, he was arrested again under 153A of IPC, a non bailable section.
According to Amnesty, more than 100 criminal cases have been registered against Gogoi till date.
Assembly Elections 2021
Without even hitting the campaign trail, Akhil Gogoi, who was in jail, clinched a massive victory in the Assam Assembly Elections from Sivasagar constituency by a decisive 11,875 votes against his BJP rival Surabhi Rajkonwari.
The Raijor Dal founder bagged 57,219 votes as an independent – 46.06 per cent of the electorate.
He became the first Assamese to win an election from jail.
It must be mentioned that his 85-year-old mother, despite her old age, campaigned for her imprisoned son in Sivasagar during the election wave, which might have struck a sympathetic chord with the electors.
A large number of volunteers and members of Raijor Dal also campaigned for Gogoi ahead of the third phase of the polls.
Gogoi is the only political prisoner to win from jail after former union minister George Fernandes, who won the 1977 Lok Sabha election by over three lakh votes.
A free man
The NIA had taken over two cases – filed in Chandmari and Chabua police station — in December 2019 regarding Gogoi’s alleged involvement in violent protests against CAA under the previously mentioned UAPA and the sedition law.
After a year and seven months, the Sivasagar MLA is finally a free man. Earlier on June 22, the NIA court acquitted Gogoi Chabua case.
On July 1, 2021 (Thursday), Gogoi was acquitted by the NIA court in the Chandmari case. With this, all charges against him are dropped.
Notably on June 26, he was granted parole for two days by an NIA court to meet his ailing mother in Jorhat. He later spent time with his wife and two sons in Guwahati.
“My mother was waiting for me. She is ailing and needs to be operated on soon. She wanted to meet me first and only then she would go for further treatment. I will talk to the doctors and will have a discussion about when can she be operated on,” he had said.
“I could not sleep at all. My son is very sad and disturbed. I spent the entire night with him,” he added.
Now that he is a free man, he has to undertake many responsibilities including taking stock of his party Raijor Dal, which didn’t fare well in the assembly elections.
As an MLA, he also has a special responsibility towards the people of Sivasagar who led him to victory with over 55 thousand votes.
Earlier, he did mention that he has a dream to make Sivasagar a tourist and a heritage place, about which he said he will speak in the next Assembly session.
Moreover, he has been away from his family for long and it is a great time to spend quality time with them.