Newly elected Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma stoked a controversy at the Assam Assembly on May 24, when he commented that MLA Akhil Gogoi is not in “a sound mental state” to attend the Assembly.
The CM’s distasteful comment came in response to a discussion on the Motion of Thanks on the Governor’s address. Dismissing the Opposition’s request to allow the jailed peasant activist to attend the session, the CM reportedly said, “The president of Raijor Dal and MLA from Sivsagar constituency, Akhil Gogoi is suffering from psychological issues. He is getting treatment for the same.”
Notably, Gogoi, who has been in jail since December 2019 on charges of sedition and inciting violence during the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests in Assam, is the first from the state to contest and win election from jail. The Raijor Dal leader took oath on May 21, after he was allowed to attend the ceremony by a special NIA court. He is currently under treatment at the Guwahati Medical College and Hospital.
CM Sarma, who has been at the centre of controversies for his comments earlier, also said that, “How can a person with ill health participate in the Assembly? Doctors at the GMCH have been treating him for the past four months. They have said that he is mentally unstable.”
Raising questions on Gogoi’s treatment, Sarma reportedly said, “If he is of sound health, he should go back to jail. He has been undergoing treatment for psychological issues at a paying cabin in the GMCH for four months.”
He also alleged that the peasant leader forgot to follow COVID-19 protocol in the Assembly when he had attended the oath ceremony, by approaching the MLAs present.
The comments of the newly elected chief minister have drawn flak from several quarters across the state. Bhasco D’Saikia, working president of the Raijor Dal, said, “We condemn the insulting comment of the Chief Minister. Actually, the BJP does not want Gogoi to participate in the Assembly and the CM does not dare to face Gogoi in a debate.”
Also read: Newly Elected MLA Akhil Gogoi Accuses Security Personnel of Mistreating Ahead of Oath Taking Ceremony
Responding to the CM’s comments, Akhil Gogoi in a letter addressed to the Speaker has demanded a video copy of the session’s proceedings and also demanded to know whether the CM’s comments have been recorded as it is. “Such personal attacks are not fit for a person in a constitutional position as the CM,” Gogoi added in the letter.
Santanu Borthakur, a senior advocate based in Guwahati, wrote in a Facebook post that the treatment that Gogoi is receiving is a secret between the patient and the doctor. “If for some reason, the treatment of ‘mental illness’ is going on as the chief minister said, it is unethical to make it public because of social stigma related to mental illness. Arrangements have been made to protect the privacy of patients. Section 23 of The Mental Health Care Act has mentioned this. Not just mental illness, there can be no public discussion about any patient’s disease,” he said.
Raijor Dal has also said that the CM’s statement has violated the rights of a patient and that they will take the matter to the concerned authorities. Saikia said that even though Gogoi had sought permission from the Speaker to attend the Assembly session, the Home and Political department had asked him to appeal to the NIA court. “Ultimately, he failed to participate in the Assembly for the two days,” he added.
Meanwhile, four activists belonging to different organisations were picked up by the Assam Police during a midnight raid on Monday in Sivasagar district, as per reports. The police team apprehended Asom Yuba Chatra Sanmilan president Jintu Mech, Raijor Dal leader Padmakant Das and Bir Lachit Sena leader Chitu Baruh from their homes. While Chatra Mukti Sangram Samiti, KMSS’s student wing, leader Manas Konwar was reportedly arrested from his residence at Simaluguru on the same day.
While the reason for their arrest has not been made public by the Sivsagar Police, sources, however, said that police picked up the activists fearing protests against chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma for his insensitive remarks against Raijor Dal chief Akhil Gogoi, Northeast Now reported.
It should be mentioned that the Raijor Dal MLA had levelled allegations of manhandling against the security personnel accompanying him to the Assembly on the day of the oath taking ceremony. Gogoi has also submitted a written complaint to pro-tem Speaker Phanibhushan Choudhuri about the mistreatment meted by police personnel on the way to and within the Assembly.