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As you might be aware, the affected people of TN led by farmers are opposing forcible acquisition of their lands for the proposed Green Highway between Chennai and Salem. There is strong resistance to the project in the districts of Salem, Dharmpuri, Thiruvannamalai and Kancheepuram. People have a right to question, debate and dissent government policies that affect them adversely in a democracy.

In Kancheepuram district, 18 persons from Tamizhar Vazhvurimai Kootamaippu who went on a ‘Meet the People’ awareness campaign about the 8-lane Salem Chennai Expressway were arrested on 03.07.2018 morning in Magaral Village even before they could commence the campaign. They were remanded to judicial custody in the evening and sent to Vellore jail. The van driver has also been booked and the rental van has been seized. This case itself is totally false. The campaigners were stopped by the police even before they could meet the local people or distribute pamphlets. But severe sections have been invoked.

FIR No. 156 / 2018 dt. 03.07.2018 has been filed by Magaral Police Station under Sections 147, 188, 341, 283, 290, 294 (b), 505 (1) (b), 353, 506 (1), of IPC, Sec 4 of TN Open Places Prevention of Disfigurement Act and Section 7(1) of Criminal Law Amendment Act. On 05.07.2018, the FIR was altered to include Sec 307 (attempt to murder) on all the accused. A total 19 persons have been remanded (13 men and 6 women) in an extremely intimidating manner.

The arrested include Mahesh, Jessy and 2 other women activists from Makkal Mandram. Other arrested persons include Dheenan and 6 others from Tamizhaga Vazhvurimai Katchi, Pasarai Selvaraj and Kanal Vizhi @ Rachel from Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi, and others from Palar Padugappu Iyakkam, Dravidar Viduthalai Kazhagam, TaOVi, Than Aatchi Tamizhagam.

From the developments that took place in Court yesterday viz., 05.07.2018, we have learnt that one PT warrant was served on Mahesh and Jessy in jail the previous evening by Vishnu Kanchi Police Station which has filed a new FIR (showing an antedated offence dt. 05.05.2018) under Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act.

Similarly, some other veteran activists like Parasai Selvaraj and Vettri Tamilan may also be targeted in a like manner.

There are strong indications that Kancheepuram police is going to file more cases (PT warrants) on Mahesh and Jessy in the coming days. They are getting ready to put up several false cases on both our senior activists. We fear that they may try to book Mahesh and Jessy under Goondas Act or NSA. Mahesh and Jessy are not afraid of these false cases. In fact, they have been to jail many times in the past too for taking up people’s issues. But this arrest is completely unjustified and follows a pattern of arresting anyone who simply talks about Green Highway project like Mansur Ali Khan, Piyush Manush, Valarmathi, and others. It shows how the elected TN government is bowing down to the dictates of the Central government time and again and ruthlessly stifling our freedom of speech and expression. We saw it happen in a terrible way in Thoothukudi in the anti-sterlite protests too.

Makkal Mandram feels that the need of the hour is for all political parties, people’s organizations, and democratic forces to come together and raise a strong voice against these arbitrary anti-people actions of state and central governments. We hope that you will extend your solidarity and support to not just these social activists, but also to the common people struggling to protect their lands and livelihoods. Let us raise these issues on all public forums and protest these arrests.

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