Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra: Assam CID summons Cong MLA, Gauhati leader

The CID has asked MLA Jakir Hussain Sikdar and Gauhati city Congress general secretary Ramen Kumar Sarma to appear before it on 23 February

File photo of Rahul Gandhi at a Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra gathering in Assam
File photo of Rahul Gandhi at a Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra gathering in Assam


Assam Police have summoned Congress MLA Jakir Hussain Sikdar and another party leader for questioning in connection with a clash that took place when Rahul Gandhi's Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra entered Gauhati last month, officials said on Monday.

The state's Criminal Investigation Department (CID) issued the summons to Sikdar and Gauhati city Congress general secretary Ramen Kumar Sarma and asked them to appear before it at 11.30 am on 23 February.

"The case is still under investigation. We have issued notices to two persons under section 41A of CrPC. We are looking into the role of other people in the case," a senior Assam Police official told PTI on condition of anonymity.

Along with Gandhi, other senior Congress leaders such as K.C. Venugopal, Jitendra Singh, Jairam Ramesh, Srinivas B.V., Kanhaiya Kumar, Gaurav Gogoi, Bhupen Kumar Borah, and Debabrata Saikia have also been named in the FIR of the incident.

On 23 January, Congress workers allegedly broke through police barricades in the presence of Gandhi and other leaders, which were put up after chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma threatened to file an FIR if the yatra attempted to enter state capital Gauhati.

The party workers clashed with the police, who went on a mild lathi charge to control the situation, but failed to protect the barricades. Several police personnel and party workers were reportedly injured in the scuffle.

After dismantling the barriers, the Congress workers, however, did not proceed further, with Gandhi stating that they "can break barricades, but will not break law", and moved through the yatra's permitted route along the NH-27 in Gauhati.

This episode prompted the chief minister to term the action as "Naxalite" in style, and instruct police to register a case. Gauhati Police lodged a suo motu FIR against Gandhi and other leaders for "wanton acts of violence". Sarma even announced that the "instigators", including Gandhi, would be arrested after Lok Sabha polls as he did not want to "politicise" the issue before the general elections.

The chief minister, who also holds charge of the home department, later announced that a special investigation team (SIT) would be formed to probe the case and accordingly, it was handed over to the CID.

The case was initially filed at Basistha police station under 10 different sections, including non-bailable ones, such as 120B (criminal conspiracy), 143 (unlawful assembly), 147 (rioting), 188 (disobedience of order), 283 (causing danger, obstruction or injury) and 353 (criminal force to deter public servant from discharging duty) of the IPC.

Section 3 of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act 1984 for alleged mischief causing damage to public property has also been invoked in the FIR.

Similarly, another FIR was registered against the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra and its organisers such as K.B. Byju, Assam Congress chief Bhupen Kumar Borah, and others for allegedly deviating from the yatra's permitted route inside Jorhat town, leading to a "chaotic situation" in the area. Jorhat district police issued notices to the accused and several of them have already been interrogated.

Referring to police cases against him and other Congress leaders in Assam, Gandhi had dared the BJP-ruled state to file "as many cases as it can", asserting that he would not be intimidated.

The yatra, led by the Congress MP, commenced from Manipur on 14 January and will culminate on 20 March in Mumbai. The Assam leg of the march, which started on 18 January and concluded on 25 January, travelled 833 km through 17 districts. The yatra plans to cover 6,713 km in 67 days while passing through 110 districts in 15 states.

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