The Arrest and Detention of Thirumurugan Gandhi is Illegal

thirumurugan gandhi 1

Tamil Nadu is the latest lab for fascist experimentation. Voices of civil rights activists and movements are stifled in every possible way. Arrests of activists have become an everyday affair. While permission to conduct a public meeting or protest is denied to movements, the sangh organizations are given a free hand.With its firm clutches on the state government, the ruling BJP – RSS duo have succeeded in imposing an undeclared emergency in the state.

Thirumurugan Gandhi, a prominent rights activist and coordinator of May 17 movement from India has been subjected to harassments and imprisoned by the TamilNadu state police force on August 9, 2018, for participating in the UNHRC session that happened in Geneva in June 2018. The May 17 movement was started in 2009, to fight for the democratic rights of the Eelam Tamils and to voice for various issues faced by the Tamils in India. Thirumurugan Gandhi has been participating in the UNHRC sessions regularly and voiced against the oppression of Eelam Tamils and also various human right violations that happen to the Tamils in India.

Last year, in May 2017, he was arrested for conducting a candle light vigil in marina beach to commemorate the Eelam Tamil genocide. He was imprisoned under the notorious Goondas act, a detention law, for over four months and then released. There were wide spread protests in Tamil Nadu against this arrest. Even the The Human rights council Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD), condemned this act of the Indian government and asked for further explanation from the Indian government on the usage of such detention laws against rights activists. Till date Indian government has not produced any response to the working group.

Now, with total disregard to the national and international laws, he has been arrested and harassed again. Thirumurugan Gandhi, was detained at the Bangalore Kempagowda International Airport on his arrival at 3.45 AM on Aug 9, 2018, on the basis of the Look Out Circular (LOC) given by the Tamil Nadu police. The case against him under IPC(Indian Penal Code) sections 153, 505(1)(b) and 505(1)(c) was speaking in the UNHRC sessions against the killing of 13 innocent unarmed civilians, including a 17 year old minor girl, who were protesting against the Sterlite copper smelter plant, which was causing environmental pollution in Tuticorin by the State police force.

In his UNHRC speech, Thirumurugan Gandhi appealed  the forum to stop police atrocities on the people of Tuticorin district and stop misuse of detention laws in India as a tool for silencing civil rights activists.The video of Thirmurugan Gandhi speaking in UN on the Tuticorin Killing was published in social media, and translated version of his speech was also shared widely in the social media. The Indian government has accused that “Thirumurugan Gandhi spoke in UNHRC with the intention to provoke the public against the government” and further claimed that he has “no right to host the video and text pursuant to his speech before the UN council”. Citing these flimsy reasons, case was filed on June 29,2018, when Thirumurugan Gandhi was still in Geneva and Look out Circular issued. He or his family members were neither notified about the case nor about the LOC. The Tamilnadu government circumvented the legal framework to make sure his voice is silenced.

He was kept under detention in an isolated room for over sixteen hours in the Kempegowda international Airport Police station.  There was no formal communication about the detention to his family members from the Karnataka police authorities, and they refused to provide one even when demanded. He was locked up in a room and no one from his family, friends or fellow rights activists were allowed to meet him, even after several repeated requests.  The media was not even allowed to take photographs or video of Thirmurugan Gandhi. When friends and family tried to take some photographs, their mobiles were expropriated by the police.

He was handed over to a ten member special team fromTamil Nadu police, who had come from Chennai, around 11 PM on Aug 9, 2018. The next day, on August 10, 2018 he was produced in front of the magistrate in Chennai, TamilNadu. Even here, his family friends were not allowed to talk to him. The Court, after hearing the case, stated that there is no prima facie material and refused to remand Thirumurugan Gandhi and directed the police to release him immediately. He was released that evening.

The moment he stepped out of the commissioner office after signing the required release papers, around 30 police men surrounded him and took him into custody forcefully. Thirumurugan Gandhi and his lawyers repeatedly demanded the police to show proper legal order on which this arrest is happening. The police refused to produce one and took him to Rayapettai police station, Chennai. This was more of a kidnap rather than an arrest.

The police used an old case that was filed against him in September 2017, when he was released from the Goondas case. Once out of the prison, the arrested comrades had gone to garland the statues of Periyar and Ambedkar. Two separate cases have been filed for these and they are used against Thirumurugan Gandhi now. Section 124-A, which accuses one of Sedition was added to the already existing case with the singular intention of keeping him behind the bars. The court granted a police custody of 15 days and he was imprisoned in Puzhal Jail, Chennai.

But later that night without any notice to his legal counsel or family members he was moved to Vellore prison. In all this time he was denied proper food and deprived of sleep intentionally by the police.Even after the courts rejecting the cases filed by the government, new cases are framed everyday with the sole aim of suppressing his voice and keeping him under imprisonment as long as possible.

Inspite of India being a member state of the UN, Thirumurugan Gandhiis being treated like a common criminal for speaking in the forum. The government is using all its forces for political vendetta against Thirumurugan Gandhi.  Vikatan, one of the Tamil Nadu’s popular magazines, had published an article on April 13,2018 about an operation planned by the Tamil Nadu police and Indian Intelligence department against Thirumurugan Gandhi and warned of imminent life threat. The illegal means used by the police keep Thirumurugan in prison evokes a fear that his life might be under threat.

May 17 movement, which was started in 2009 after the brutal genocidal war in Srilanka has been in the forefront of many struggles in Tamil Nadu. Silencing the movement has been very critical for the state to impose a much more rigorous form of capitalist development on the state. With both DMK and AIADMK losing its popular face, the ruling class is jittery about people turning towards movements in times of struggles.

Progressive movements, activists throughout India should come forward to condemn this arrest and unanimously demand for dropping all charges against Thirumurugan Gandhi and secure his release.

Tamizharasan belongs to May17 movement

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