Assam CM says Akhil Gogoi being treated for mental problems; invites criticism
Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Monday told the state assembly that president of Raijor Dal and newly-elected MLA from Sibsagar, Akhil Gogoi, was undergoing treatment for mental health related issues and was currently unfit to attend the assembly session. Gogoi’s party said Sarma’s remarks were insulting and a breach of the MLA’s privilege.
Gogoi has been under arrest since December, 2019 for his role in the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests. The 45-year-old, who is under treatment at Guwahati Medical College Hospital (GMCH) for various ailments, was allowed to participate in the oath-taking ceremony of new MLAs held on Friday by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) court hearing his case.
After taking oath, Gogoi requested the assembly speaker to let him take part in the entire session. Earlier, Gogoi had alleged manhandling by police and administrative officials while being brought to the assembly from GMCH.
“How can a sick person be allowed to take part in the assembly session? Gogoi has been under treatment at GMCH for the past four months. He is getting treatment for psychological issues, emotional imbalance and mental problems,” Sarma said on the last day of the first session of the new assembly.
“He forgot Covid protocol when he came to the assembly on the first day to take oath and went from one desk to another meeting everyone inside the house. If he says he is not sick, [then] he should be in jail. And if he is sick, he should not attend the assembly,” he added.
Sarma’s response came after the speaker sought the government’s view on Gogoi’s request. The CM argued that since Gogoi was ill, he shouldn’t be exposed to others and allowed to take part in assembly proceedings.
“The CM used insulting and demeaning words against our party president. Sarma doesn’t have what it takes to face Gogoi and hence uses all means to ensure he doesn’t take part in the assembly,” said Raijor Dal working president Bhasco De Saikia.
Saikia further alleged that the state government’s official stand on Gogoi’s request for attending the entire session had no mention of mental illness. “...but a letter to the speaker from the home and political department, headed by the CM, says that as Gogoi’s matter was sub judice, he should approach the court for reprieve. This clearly exposes the CM’s stand in the assembly,” he said.
Saikia said the CM shouldn’t have disclosed Gogoi’s medical condition in the assembly and also accused Sarma of breaking Covid-19 protocol several times in the past.
Raijor Dal later said that Gogoi was contemplating filing a breach of privilege motion against the CM for his statements in the assembly on Monday.
Replying to a discussion on the Motion of Thanks on the governor’s address, the CM again asked the banned United Liberation Front of Asom-Independent (ULFA-I) to shun violence and join the peace talks. He indicated that soon a peace deal would be signed with rebel outfits in the Karbi Anglong areas.
Sarma listed the government’s achievements in fighting Covid and said it supplied oxygen to other northeastern states and medicines to states like Jharkhand and Telangana.
The CM also assured that the government will fulfill all its promises including providing jobs to 100,000 youths and waiving off loans taken by women groups from microfinance companies.
Sarma said a new department comprising experts will be created to construct embankments on the Brahmaputra and efforts will be undertaken to dredge its tributaries with the aim to make a flood-free Assam.
He added that Bharatiya Janata Party’s return to power was also a mandate for re-verification of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) as promised by the party before polls.
The Sarma-led government also proposes to make a law for protection of cows in the next assembly session.
“We believe cows are our mother. So, we want to put an end to transportation of cows from West Bengal. The directive principles of our constitution say cows shouldn’t be slaughtered,” he said.
Reacting to Sarma’s speech, the opposition Congress said the government avoided crucial issues like Covid-19 management and the National Register of Citizens (NRC).
“We are committed to performing the role of a responsible opposition. But as per the mandate given to us by voters, we will continue to raise crucial issues,” said leader of Congress legislature party, Debabrata Saikia.