Speaking at the conclusion of the three-day first session of the newly sworn-in Assembly, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Monday pitched for a peaceful Assam while urging the ULFA-I chief to join peace talks.
“The government and the ULFA-I, with an open mind, should create an atmosphere for talks. I want to say clearly that PM Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah have goodwill to establish peace in Assam. May the path for peace begin with Retul Saikia’s release,” Sarma said. He said the recent release of Retul Saikia, the last of the three kidnapped ONGC employees, by the ULFA-I was a “ray of hope”.
The Chief Minister also informed the House that the government is on the way to sign a peace and development accord with outfits in Karbi Anglong district in line with the signing of the Bodo Accord in January 2020.
Sarma reiterated his government’s commitment to fulfil the promises made in the election manifesto, and repeated the government’s stand on seeking a re-verification of the published NRC. However, he drew criticism for saying that jailed activist and legislator Akhil Gogoi was suffering from mental health issues.
On Friday, Gogoi had registered his objection to CM Sarma regarding how he was handled by police and authorities while being brought to the Assembly for the oath-taking ceremony. After the ceremony, he was taken back to the Guwahati Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) where he has been admitted and under treatment.
On Monday, Sarma said that Gogoi suffers from mental health issues and claimed he was getting treatment for “psychological issues” at the GMCH. He argued that Gogoi was being treated at the GMCH for over four months and if he was fine, he should be shifted back to the prison. He said that on Friday, Gogoi had moved from one table to another and met several legislators breaking Covid protocol.
Gogoi’s party, Raijor Dal, termed the comments “insulting”. “Himanta Biswa Sarma has never had the courage to face Akhil Gogoi with justification and facts and therefore they are trying to stop him from attending the Assam Assembly session by hook or by crook,” said Bhasco De Saikia, chief convenor of the Raijor Dal. Saikia said that what a patient is receiving treatment for is private information between the doctor and the patient; and it was “unfortunate” that the CM revealed such information in the Assembly.
Congress MP Pradyut Bordoloi tweeted, “Belittling an opposition colleague #AkhilGogoi as a psychiatric patient in the assembly was not only a parliamentary impropriety but was also in extremely bad taste coming from a CM. Are you aspiring to go to the next level ? A statesman @himantabiswa??”
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