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NIA cites use of ‘comrade’ and ‘Lal Salam’ on Facebook to substantiate UAPA, sedition charges

NIA has filed charge sheet against Assam-based RTI activist Akhil Gogoi, his aide Bittoo Sonowal, and Manas Konwar & Dhirjya Konwar.

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New Delhi: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) in its charge sheet against Bittoo Sonowal, a close aide of Assam-based RTI activist Akhil Gogoi, has cited the use of phrases like “comrade” and “Lal Salam” as evidence to substantiate charges of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and sedition against him.

According to the charge sheet accessed by ThePrint, NIA has placed on record a DVD containing data from the Facebook profile of Sonowal, dated 10 January 2020 in which Sonowal had referred to some friends and they addressed him as “Comrade and used words Lal Salam”.

The said charge sheet was filed against Sonowal, Akhil Gogoi, Manas Konwar and Dhirjya Konwar under sections of criminal conspiracy, sedition, promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, assertions prejudicial to national integration and UAPA, in a special court in Guwahati on 29 May.

The four men were arrested after massive protests against the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) broke out in Assam last year.

While Gogoi was arrested on 17 December, Sonawal was held on 7 January.

The charge sheet also places on evidence a Facebook post in which Sonowal has posted a picture of Lenin with the words “The Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.”

These are among other evidence, including “incriminating speech by Akhil Gogoi downloaded from Facebook, Youtube”, and material recovered from memory cards and voice recordings seized during investigation.

Men disrupted government works”

In the charge sheet, the NIA has accused the four men of sedition, stating that they supported the ideological inclination of the banned terror group Communist Party of India (Maoist), held secret meetings with its members and disrupted government works in the state of Assam in the name of dissent.

“Gogoi with his associates since long has been organising seditious activities, disrupting government works in the state of Assam in the name of dissent activities in democracy which have tactical resemblance with the modus operandi of CPI (M), a proscribed organisation,” the charge sheet said.

The NIA claimed to have accessed ample video footage, speeches and legal intercepts to establish the conspiracy of the “terrorist act hatched by the four accused.”

The charge sheet also says that the men supported violent protests against the CAB by provoking people, burning tyres and resorting to sloganeering.

“All accused organised various meetings in the month of November, December 2019 and conspired to commit terrorist Act, by using inflammable substances to strike terror in section of people, by causing widespread blockade in the state of Assam, thereby paralyzing the government machinery, causing economic blockade and disruption of service essential for life of community,” the chargesheet said.

Gogoi sent 15 cadres for CPI(M) training’

The NIA claimed that Gogoi also sent around 15 cadres of Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMS) in batches of 5 each to train in camps of CPI(Maoist). “They were imparted with training in their ideology, handling of arms and explosives, tactics and mass moblisation of seditious activities in the garb of protest activities,” the chargesheet says.

KMSS, however, refuted the allegations.

Mukut Deka, Joint Secretary KMSS told ThePrint, “The agency has no proof to establish this frivolous claim. They have not been able to present any evidence to show who these 15 people are. This is an attempt to malign the organisation.”

NIA further stated that the four accused conspired to create enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language and have done acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony, using passage of the CAB in Parliament as an opportunity.

It further said that “mass mobalisation on the modus operendi of CPI (M) was done with violence, leading to damaging public property and grievous injury to officials on their official duties.”

NIA also accused the men of conspiring to obstruct public ways, including Railways, national highways, state highways and internal roads and causing damage to public utilities.

Also read: SC issues notice to Gautam Navlakha on NIA plea challenging Delhi HC order on jurisdiction


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