Guwahati: Bitu Sonowal, a prominent peasant leader from Assam, who was arrested for his role in the agitation against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act last year, has finally been granted bail by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Court in Guwahati on Wednesday, June 15.
Sonowal was arrested earlier this year and (along with RTI activist Akhil Gogoi and two of his other aides) charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, by the NIA.
Sonowal, who is currently suffering from the COVID-19 virus which he had contracted at the Gauhati Central Jail, will finally breathe free air after he is released from the Gauhati Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) where he is currently undergoing treatment.
The Krishak Mukti leader's bail has been granted after another peasant leader incarcerated during the anti-CAA agitation, Manas Konwar, was granted bail.
Sonowal's bail has been granted in the midst of rising clamour for the release of KMSS Chief, Akhil Gogoi, who was arrested from Jorhat in December in the midst of the protests to repeal the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Act. The NIA said that Gogoi has been booked for "waging a war against the nation, conspiracy, and looting." He was later booked under the amended UAPA that gives the Centre the power to designate individuals as terrorists.
Although Gogoi was granted bail on March 17 by a special NIA court after the investigating agency failed to file a chargesheet against him within the specified period of 90 days, he was arrested again, just two days later. Gogoi's supporters claim that the charges against Gogoi and his cohorts are "phony" and "undemocratic."
At the very onset of the COVID-19 outbreak in Assam, voices were raised demanding the release of Gogoi and others which cited the "unsafe" condition of the jail as a major concern. The voices demanding Gogoi's release grew into a loud roar once reports of his ill health reached the citizenry via various media channels.
Then, immense speculation grew as to whether the KMSS men kept at the Guwahati Central Jail were COVID-19 positive as there had been reports of a viral disease outbreak in the premises. Finally, after a series of tests were conducted, Sonowal, Dhaijya Konwar, and Gogoi himself tested positive for the much-feared virus.