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16 February, 2008

Demand for release of Lachit Bordoloi

The People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) has provided the following update on the case of Lachit Bordoloi, journalist and peace activist of Assam

Lachit Bordoloi, Advisor of Manab Adhikar Sangram Samiti (MASS), was arrested by the police three days ago. He, along with three others, including journalist Pradeep Gogoi of NETV has been remanded to five days' police custody. This is yet another attack on the democratic rights movement in the country, a dangerous shrinkage of the right to question state atrocities and to expressdissent with state policy and practices.

A number of eminent literary and cultural figures like Mahasweta Devi, Girish Karnad, Arundhati Roy, Rajendra Yadav and Habib Tanvir, have issued a statement demanding their release and repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.

Please circulate the statement


We, the undersigned, are deeply dismayed at the arrest of Lachit Bordoloi, Advisor to the Manab Adhikar Sangram Samiti (MASS). We fear for the safety of Lachit Bordoloi, who was picked up from Moranhat, between Dibrugarh and Sibsagar, on 11 February. Three others have also been arrested:Pradeep Gogoi, the Duliajan correspondent of NETV, Suman Dutta, an employee of Air Deccan and advocate Nekibur Zaman, by the Guwahati police.

The arrest of Pradeep Gogoi constitutes yet another attack on the Press which has been under severe attack in recent years with the arrests of Govindan Kutty, Praful Jha, A K Sengupta, Dharmendra Sriram Bhurle and others. It is disturbing that Bordoloi, Dutta and Gogoi have been remanded to five or six days of police custody by the Sub Divisional judicial magistrate, Kamrup. Nekibur Zaman is inhospital with a broken ankle.The police are accusing them of being involved in the planning of a hijacking. But long before Lachit's arrest it was known that the Assam government had decided to detain him.

On the 9th of February the police had come to his house and without giving a seizure list confiscated some CDs and his computer from his residence.This is not the first time that Lachit Bordoloi has been picked up, having been arrested under TADA while it was in operation and on other occasions.

Manab Adhikar Sangram Samiti, of which he is the advisor, too has also been at the receiving end of a state onslaught, with its offices being routinelyransacked, and activists threatened.
It is significant that Lachit Bordoloi was part of the People's Consultative Committee set up in 2005 to initiate discussions between the Government of India and ULFA. His arrest is another indication of the hard line that the government is adopting towards those who seek to occupy the middle ground. It is also yet another instance, in now linking Lachit to ULFA, of how the pernicious Unlawful Activities Prevention Act 2004 is being used to choke legitimate political activity.

MASS has over the years been strongly opposing army atrocities, encounters, disappearances in Assam, and together with many other organizations demanding the repeal of the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).

Coming as it does within a few months of the arrest of Dr. Binayak Sen, Vice-President of PUCL, his arrest is clearly part of a concerted strategy on the part of the state to silence all democratic dissent and criticism of state policies, especially in conflict areas.

We demand:

1. The immediate and unconditional release of Lachit Bordoloi, Pradeep Gogoi, Suman Dutta and Nekibur Zaman;

2. The total repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act from all 'disturbed areas';

3. The repeal of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act 2004, and the end to any attempts by the government to muzzle the freedom of the Press and criminalize legitimate political activity.

Mahasweta Devi
Girish Karnad
Habib Tanvir
Arundhati Roy
Rajendra Yadav
Ashis Nandy
Sumit Chakravarty
Praful Bidwai
Tarun Tejpal
Tanika Sarkar
Sumit Sarkar

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