India: Arbitrary arrest and judicial harassment of land rights activist Mr. Akhil Gogoi

29/09/2017
Urgent Appeal

IND 005 / 0917 / OBS 106
Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment
India
September 29, 2017

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in India.

Brief description of the information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the arbitrary arrest and judicial harassment of land rights activist Mr. Akhil Gogoi, President of Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), a peasant rights organisation based in Assam [1].

According to the information received, on the evening of September 13, 2017, Mr. Akhil Gogoi was arrested at the office of KMSS in Golaghat, Assam State, by Dibrugarh police. He was falsely charged with “sedition” (Section 124 (A) of the Indian Penal Code), “criminal conspiracy” (Section 120-B), “waging or attempting to wage war against the Government of India” (Section 121), “abetment of an offence” (Section 109), “causing communal disharmony” (section 153) and “hate speech” (Section 153-A).

Mr. Akhil Gogoi’s arrest took place the day after he addressed a public audience in Moran, Dibrugarh, during which he criticised various policy decisions of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) State Government in Assam. These included infringing the rights of indigenous people of Assam, including the non-implementation of the 1985 Assam Accord; and the absence of constitutional safeguards to protect the rights of indigenous people of Assam. After his speech, the police lodged a First Information Report (FIR) against Mr. Gogoi at Moran police station, accusing him of “fuelling anti-national activities” (case number 180/17) [2]. This complaint formed the basis for Mr. Gogoi’s arrest by Dibrugarh police on September 13, 2017.

Mr. Akhil Gogoi’s arrest also came in the wake of the mass rallies held by KMSS in past few weeks, protesting against the mishandling by the BJP State Government of the agrarian farm crisis following a very poor summer harvest.

On September 18, 2017, Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate Imdad Ahmed remanded Mr. Akhil Gogoi in judicial custody until September 25, 2017.

On September 25, 2017, Mr. Akhil Gogoi was brought before Dibrugarh Court and was arrested under the National Security Act in connection with 15 cases pending before various courts, including a case pending against him in Kaziranga [3]. During the court hearing, Mr. Akhil Gogoi was humiliated and physically mistreated. The Court ultimately rejected his bail application.

As of the publication of this Urgent Appeal, Mr. Akhil Gogoi remained detained in Dibrugarh jail, although his transfer to Nagaon jail was announced on September 25, 2017. Moreover, he is kept in solitary confinement and he has been denied access to a lawyer and to his relatives, which would request the permission from the District Commissioner.

The next hearing in his case is scheduled to take place on October 10, 2017.

The Observatory strongly condemns the arbitrary arrest of Mr. Akhil Gogoi, which only aims at punishing him for his legitimate human rights activities, and calls on the Indian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release him.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities in India, urging them to:

i. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Akhil Gogoi and of all human rights defenders in India;

ii. Release Mr. Akhil Gogoi immediately and unconditionally as his detention is arbitrary since it only seems to aim at punishing him for his human rights activities;

iii. Guarantee the access of Mr. Mr. Akhil Gogoi to his family members and to a lawyer of his own or his family’s choosing;

iv. Put an end to all acts of harassment - including at the judicial level - against Mr. Akhil Gogoi and all human rights defenders in India, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;

v. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, in particular with Articles 1 and 12.2;

vi. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by India.

Addresses:

· Mr. Shri Narendra Damodardas Modi, Prime Minister of India, Fax: + 91 11 2301 6857. E-mail: pmosb@pmo.nic.in / manmo@sansad.in
· Mr. Raj Nath Singh, Union Minister of Home Affairs of India, Fax: +91 11 2309 2979. Email: dirfcra-mha@gov.in
· Mr. Rajiv Gauba, Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs of India, Email: hshso@nic.in
· Justice Dipak Misra, Chief Justice of India, Supreme Court, of India, Fax: +91 11 233 83792, Email: supremecourt@nic.in
· Justice Shri H.L. Dattu, Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of India, Fax +91 11 2465 1329. Email: chairnhrc@nic.in
· Mr. Srinivasa Kammath, Focal Point on Human Rights Defenders, National Human Rights Commission of India, Email: hrd-nhrc@nic.in
· H.E. Mr. Rajiv Kumar Chander, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: +41 22 906 86 96, Email: mission.india@ties.itu.int
· H.E. Mr. Manjeev Singh Puri, Embassy of India to the European Union, Belgium and Luxembourg in Brussels, Belgium, Fax: +32 2 6489638 / +32 2 6451869

Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of India located in your country.

***
Geneva-Paris, September 29, 2017

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
• E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
• Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
• Tel and fax FIDH: + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80

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