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The health of Thirumurugan Gandhi, Coordinator of May17 Movement, has deteriorated in prison and the prison authorities are not giving him due treatment, said the May17 Movement in a statement.

He has been kept in solitary confinement for the past 45 days in Vellore prison. He is not allowed to step out of his cell, meet others or talk with others even during the day. The cell in which he has been detained is a very old one and no one has been kept in it for the past two years. Due to the lack of proper ventilation in that cell, Thirumurugan has been suffering from breathing problems of late.

The cell is totally unhygienic, with presence of dust settlements, insects and worms. Since the cell is in close proximity to dense bushes, a snake had entered the room recently. Since it was during the day, he was able to spot it and keep it away and save himself.

He is not provided with proper food as well. During the visits to the courts, he is not given proper food for lunch. He has been suffering from dysentery and vomit many a times. On 22nd of this month he had semia (rice noodles) for breakfast and fainted inside his cell. He was spotted by the police personnel who was on rounds and took him to the prison doctor on his shoulders.

The continuous consumption of unhygienic food and lack of proper ventilation has affected Thirumurugan’s health adversely in the past few days. On the 23rd he was taken to the prison doctor. Yesterday his relatives along with movement members had gone to meet him after applying for the visit. Only during this visit they came to know that Thirumurugan has been taken to the hospital. No information was provided about this to them.

At the Adukkamparai hospital, the doctor who attended him, had initially prescribed to admit him in the hospital for two days, but for whatever reasons he may have, he came back and said two days hospital admission was not required. It is clear who pressurised him to say admission in hospital was not required. Due to irregular and unhygenienic food, he has low blood sugar levels and low blood pressure.

There is a drastic violation of human rights on Thirumurugan Gandhi inside the prison, who is a political activist fighting for people’s rights and remanded with none of his cases yet to be proven.

May17 Movement in the statement strongly condemned this gross violation of human rights happening to Thirumurgan Gandhi inside the prison . The statement said, “if these violations continue, we shall stage a huge protest in democratic and peaceful way joining hands with other democratic forces.”

The statement further said “While May 17 Movement condemns this illegal human rights violations done by the prison officials, we also inform, that legal discourses will be taken against them for the same.”

Thirumurugan Gandhi has been subjected to harassments and imprisoned by theTamilNadu state police force since August 9, 2018, for participating in the UNHRC session that happened in Geneva in June 2018. ThirumuruganGandhi, 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 TamilNadu 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 wascausing environmental pollution in Tuticorin by the State police force.

Thirumurugan Gandhi appealed to UNHRC 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. The police had 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” and case was filed on June 29,2018, when Thirumurugan Gandhi was still in Geneva and Look out Circular issued. He or family members were neither notified about the case nor about the LOC.

The next day, on August 10, 2018 he was produced in front of the magistrate in Chennai, TamilNadu.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.

But when he was coming out of the police station, 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 failed 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, and charged him under the pretext of Unlawful assembly and Sedition. The court granted a police custody of 15 days and he was imprisoned in Puzhal Jail, Chennai. Later than 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.

Ever since the imprisonment, every day new cases are filed on Thirumurugan Gandhi. So far 13 cases have been filed for various reasons. Some of the cases include speaking in a peaceful anti-sterlite rally in Tuticorin, speaking in public meeting against the Indian Governments move to end the public distribution system at the insistence of WTO, speaking in Ambedkar’s birth day anniversary public meeting. Out of the 13 cases the notoriousIPC section 124-A, which accuses one of sedition, is used in four cases. The section is used for the flimsiest of the reasons like garlanding statues of social reformers, Dr.B.R. Ambedkar and Periyar E.V.R and addressing the gathering, expressing his views on facebook. Further the some of the cases are filed in districts Tuticorin, Nagercoil. So for every hearing, Thirumurugan Gandhi is made to travel to and fro from the Vellore prison. He is also kept in solitary confinement in the prison, thought the cases filed against him doesn’t demand so. By putting him through physical and mental stress the Indian government is making its intention clear.

The Indian Government is using all the draconian measures at its disposal to stifle the voice of activists who fight using democratic means for the rights of the people.

Vikatan, one of the TamilNadu’s popular magazines, had published an article on April 13,2018 about an operation planned by the TamilNadu police and Indian Intelligence department against Thirumurugan Gandhi and warned of imminent life threat. The illegal means used by the police in TamilNadu to keep Thirumurugan Gandhi under police custody evokes a fear that his life might be under threat from the state.

On August 24thThirumurugan Gandhi was booked again under another draconian Indian Law called the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). The case has been filed for his participation and speech in a public meeting organized in 2017, to condemn the oppression and human rights violations in Palestine and to express the solidarity with the Palestinian struggle.

The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, which was brought in with the pretext of tackling terrorism, has repeatedly been used against political activists. Inspite of worldwide condemnation on such draconian measures, this law is continuing to be used by successive Indian governments.

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. 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. The May 17 movement has been in the forefront of many struggles that have erupted in TamilNadu since 2009.

2 Comments

  1. Sally Dugman says:

    It is illegal to torture people. Someone needs to register a complaint to international organizations about this happening. Perhaps Amnesty International, Avaaz and other groups will step up and help provide pressure and legal help. Complaints, too, must be lodged with various factions of the Indian government, it would seem. … Someone needs to step up and undertake these actions!!!