The Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) strongly condemns the attack on RTI activist and General Secretary of the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), Akhil Gogoi by six alleged Youth Congress workers.
Akhil Gogoi was assaulted while he was surveying the flood situation in Punni village, Dharmapur area of Assam. He is currently admitted in the Nalbari Civil Hospital and is said to be in a critical condition having sustained head and other injuries.
The Police have launched an investigation, following up on an FIR filed by Mr. Gogoi. The MKSS urges that this investigation be carried out urgently, and thoroughly, and those responsible be brought to book immediately.
Akhil Gogoi, the KMSS, and residents of flood effected districts in Assam such as Kamrup, Baska and Darrang have been demanding that the recommendations of the Task Force set up in 2004 by the Government of India to tackle the problem of floods in Assam, be made public. They have also been pushing the water resources department to repair embankments breached by the floods to prevent further suffering in these regions.
The MKSS supports this demand, and we express our deep concern that this report has not been made publicly accessible. It is also regrettable that adequate action has not been taken by the government to prevent further damage after the floods of 2004.
In May, Mr. Gogoi undertook a fast to demand an end to repressive measures adopted by the State Government in Assam against those protesting the construction of Mega river dams in the Northeast.
He demanded the immediate release of protestors arrested during agitations and justifiably argued that wider consultations with local residents and stakeholders must be ensured before large dam and infrastructure construction projects are carried out.
The MKSS is deeply disturbed by the series of attacks which have taken place on RTI activists across the country who have all been trying to use the RTI as a tool to improve the democratic functioning of institutions.
Like Mr. Gogoi, there are many activists today daring to raise issues which challenge unequal and unjust power relations and who are often faced with vested interests. It is the job of the State to protect these voices and spaces. In such a context, the MKSS feels that the Whistleblower Protection Bill, although inadequate, should provide some avenue of support to protect activists such as Mr. Gogoi. It must be enacted and implemented without further delay.