Despite Ban, Murals of Akhil Gogoi Seen in Public Spaces in Assam
Akhil Gogoi of the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) has been jailed since 12 December 2019.
Not a single mural of Akhil Gogoi can be painted without permission, declared Assam police on Thursday, 19 November, but the very next day, graffiti, posters and slogans demanding his release surfaced in several parts of the Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled state.
Gogoi of the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) has been jailed and charged under several offences since 12 December 2019 for indulging in protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA). He has been charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
The Satra Mukti Sangram Samiti (SMSS), student wing of the KMSS, had called for a protest after four artists were detained by the Guwahati police for painting without permission.
MP Gupta, Commissioner of Police, Guwahati, talking to The Indian Express, however, denied that any artists were detained by the police. “Drawing on public property without any permission is not allowed. We advised the artists against damaging public property. We have not cleaned the painting — the artists must have realised their mistake after our advice and then, removed it themselves,” he said.
The mural, on the wall of a foot-overbridge at Bashistha, shows the leader being dragged by police.
Sarma, visiting Assistant Professor, College of Art, Delhi told a media channel that Akhil Gogoi is a symbol of resistance. “We have been seeing photos of him surrounded by cops, so as artists we decided to replicate that. It was just a form of creative expression. Neither did we hold up traffic, nor were we creating a public nuisance. We were just making art,” he said, reported The Indian Express.
The art collective, Anga Art has been drawing murals as a form of political expression since 2010, especially in 2019 with ‘Art Against Hate’ targeting CAA.
The four artists were later let go but they were eventually allegedly made to paint over the whole mural.
Local media has called the police action an ‘obstacle on freedom of speech and expression’.
“The call has evoked a good response. Nobody took permission today. Thursday’s was an attack on freedom of expression. How long can you keep us shut?” SMSS assistant general secretary Pranjal Kalita told The Telegraph on Friday evening.
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