Splainer

Friday, July 2 2021


Dive In

The Chinese people have never bullied, oppressed, or enslaved the people of other countries. At the same time, the Chinese people will never allow any foreign forces to bully, oppress or enslave us. Anyone who dares try to do that will have their heads bashed bloody against a Great Wall of steel forged by over 1.4 billion Chinese people.

That’s part of a notably aggressive speech made by President Xi Jinping at an event marking the centenary of the ruling Communist Party. He also said Beijing would not allow “sanctimonious preaching”—in an apparent reference to diplomatic pressure over human right violations in Hong Kong and Xinjiang. “Heads bashed bloody” soon became a trending topic on Weibo on Thursday, with more than 900 million views.

Big Story

The freeing of Akhil Gogoi: ‘Miracle’ or pattern?

The TLDR: A National Intelligence Agency court cleared the activist of all charges in one of the most high profile cases in the North East. Gogoi’s arrest received little attention in the Delhi-centric media, but his release ought to make us pay attention—since it marks an emerging judicial pattern in anti-terror/sedition cases. 

 

Who is Gogoi?

The 45-year old son of a farmer is a prominent activist who has spent decades being a thorn in the side of both the Congress party and the BJP in Assam. In the past, he has led agitations for land rights, and against dam construction and corruption. And he has been arrested multiple times by various governments.

 

Unlike many Delhi activists, Gogoi has a mass following among students and peasants. In May this year, he became the first person in Assam to win an Assembly seat while in prison. He ran on a ticket for his own party Raijor Dal—which was formed in the aftermath of the protests against the citizenship law. An Assamese intellectual best sums up his political power:

 

“That democratic movements can successfully be carried out in villages far and wide was Akhil’s teaching. I would not imagine a massive movement for people’s ration or a struggle against a hike in city bus fares from one rupee to one and a half under the leadership of [other activist organisations]... There was a time he struck a chord with all non-elites of the state by doing things like cycle rallies and podojatras (processions).”

 

A mixed anti-CAA record: 

 

  • The protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act actually began under Gogoi’s leadership in 2016 in Assam—where the reasons for opposition are unique to the state. 
  • The law grants citizenship to the people of Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan that belong to six minority religious communities—except for Muslims. 
  • Where it has been opposed as anti-Muslim elsewhere, in Assam the law sparked fears that it will offer a path to citizenship to Bengali Hindu immigrants. 
  • The state experienced a massive wave of migration after the Bangladesh War in 1971—which in turn led to a prolonged and violent agitation aimed at deporting all “foreigners” from the state.
  • Hence, Gogoi—who advocates a mix of populism and Assamese nationalism—has fiercely opposed the CAA. But he has remained mostly silent on the controversial National Register of Citizens—which is a list of citizens intended to identify and exclude “foreigners.”

 

Ok, tell me about this case…

  • Gogoi was arrested in December, 2019, by the National Intelligence Agency during widespread and angry protests against the CAA in Assam.
  • He has been booked in 12 different cases under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC)—including two that invoke the anti-terror law, Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). 
  • The National Intelligence Agency took over the two UAPA cases, and he was therefore tried in front of a special NIA court. 
  • In one NIA case, Gogoi was accused of leading a mob to create a blockade—and the crowds allegedly tried to attack and kill the police personnel on duty. 
  • This case was thrown out by an NIA court on June 22 due to insufficient evidence. 
  • The second case—which was decided yesterday—was very similar, and invoked the same anti-terror and sedition laws. 
  • But it also alleged that Gogoi had secretly merged one of his organisations with a banned Maoist group.
  • Thanks to UAPA’s stringent clauses,Gogoi was repeatedly denied bail—even by the Supreme Court. 

 

But now he has been set free?

Yes, he was cleared of all charges by the NIA court. It was the last remaining case that had kept him in jail—since he’s received bail in all the others that don’t invoke UAPA. 

 

Why is this such a big deal?

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In today’s edition

Headlines That Matter

  • Zomato bets on groceries
  • Will & Harry’s unveiling moment
  • The dysfunction of Kamala Harris’ office
  • A famine in Madagascar

 

Weekend Advisory

  • Malayalee women are using Clubhouse to talk sex, sexuality and female pleasure
  • Public parks have offered spaces of solace to queer folks in India
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