We the following writers, film makers, poets, artists, theatre personalities, musicians, activists, academicians and members of civil society demand that harassment of Thirumurugan Gandhi be stopped immediately.
Thirumurugan Gandhi, a prominent rights activist and coordinator of May 17 movement from India has been subjected to harassment and imprisoned by the Tami lNadu police since August 9, 2018, for participating in the UNHRC session that was held in Geneva in June 2018.
The provocation for the arrest of Thirumurugan Gandhi seems to be mainly:
a. He supported the struggle of the Palestinian people; and
b. He spoke against the police firing on the local people of Tuticorin who have been struggling for their rights.
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 by the State police force, including a 17 year old minor girl, who were protesting against the Sterlite copper smelter plant, which was causing environmental pollution in Tuticorin.
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 at a UN meeting on the Tuticorin killings was published in social media. The police has accused Thirumurugan Gandhi of speaking at the UNHRC meeting “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”. A 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 next day, on August 10, 2018 he was produced in front of the magistrate in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. 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 Royapettai police station, Chennai. This was more of a kidnap than an arrest.
The police used an old case that was filed against him in September 2017, and charged him for‘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. It must also be remembered that both Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru had demanded the removal of the Sedition Law during the Freedom Struggle. Unfortunately, seven decades later this draconian law is still being used against activists.
Ever since his imprisonment, every day new cases are filed against Thirumurugan Gandhi. So far 13 cases have been filed for various reasons. Some of the cases include speaking at a peaceful anti-Sterlite rally in Tuticorin, speaking at a public meeting against the Indian Government’s move to end the public distribution system at the insistence of WTO, speaking on Ambedkar’s birth anniversary public meeting. Out of the 13 cases the notorious IPC 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, some of the cases are filed in districts Tuticorin, Nagercoil. So for every hearing, Thirumurugan Gandhi was made to travel to and fro from the Vellore prison. He was also kept in solitary confinement in the prison, though 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.
On August 24th Thirumurugan Gandhi was booked again under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). The case has been filed under section 13(1)(B) of UAPA for his speaking in a public meeting organized in 2017, to condemn the oppression and human rights violations in Palestine and expressing solidarity with the Palestinian liberation struggle. The government claimed that through his speech he had incited the public to do unlawful activities. The court found this claim absurd and refused to remand him under UAPA. The police have now charged him with section IPC 505 for the same case.
Thirumurugan Gandhi’s health deteriorated badly during his time in prison. He was given only one meal per day and he suffered from continuous diarrhea. The police refused to admit him in the hospital even after the advice of the doctors. It was only after his health condition deteriorated further and when the doctors refused to budge to the demands of the police to treat him with tablets he was admitted. Following public opinion turning against the state harassment, Thirumurugan Gandhi was released on October 2, 2018 on conditional bail. He is currently undergoing treatment in Chennai. He is still facing four sedition charges apart from other cases for which he should visit the police stations in various distrcits everyday.
The May 17 movement was started in 2009, to fight against the human rights violations of the Eelam Tamils and to voice various issues faced by the Tamils in India. The movement has ever since been in the forefront of many social, economic and environmental struggles in Tamil Nadu. Be it Koodankulam Anti-nuclear struggle, anti-fracking struggles in the Tanjore delta regions, student protests in 2013 against the US Sponsored UN resolution in favor of the genocidal Sri Lankan state, jallikattu protest, anti-WTO protests against the closure of public distribution shops in TamilNadu, anti-NEET protests- the May 17 movement has played a critical ideological role in challenging the state’s economic development model.
The movement has campaigned extensively against the Modi government’s demonetization and GST schemes and conducted protests throughout the state. The movement has been rigorously propagating the ideas of Ambedkar and Periyar in TamilNadu, which has irked the RSS in the State. Many of the RSS functionaries have openly called for an arrest and imprisonment of Thirumurugan Gandhi several times. In 2017 he was arrested for conducting a candlelight 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.
Thirumurugan Gandhi is not the only victim of the misuse of power by the police machinery with political pressures. Many human rights activists, journalists, leaders of people’s movements as well as cultural personalities have also been subjected to such fabricated cases. Fabricated cases are also used extensively on religious minorities, Dalits, Adivasis and marginalized nationalities also. In this context, it is essential to restructure the powers of the police machinery to fabricate cases on anybody they chose, and that also with draconian laws. We feel that there should be a system of public accountability in this regard and the criminalisation of innocent people especially those who defend the human rights of people, must be immediately stopped. Without such a process, democracy in this country will not function.
We hereby appeal to all those who respect human rights of citizens in every country to condemn the harassment and express their voices to drop all the fabricated cases against Thirumurugan Gandhi and similar human rights defenders. Though Thirumurugan Gandhi has been given bail, and now released from incarceration, given the mafia nature of Tamil Nadu State, there is all the possible danger of his re-arrest, hence we appeal that dropping of all the charges against him becomes very crucial demand to pursue.
Repeal Fabricated Charges OnThirumurugan Gandhi! Resist Undeclared Emergency !
- Justice D.Hari Parandhaman, Retired Madras high court Judge
- Henry Tiphange, National Secretary, Human Rights Defenders Alert, National Secretary, All India Network of NGO’s and Individuals
- Brahma ,Director of National award winning movie “KutramKadithal”
- Rajumurugan, Writer, Journalist and Film Maker., Director of National Award winning feature film “Joker”
- Professor A. Marx, Writer, Activist and President of National Confederation of Human Rights Organisations (NCHRO)
- S.V.Rajadurai, Writer and Marxist Intellectual
- Piyush Manush, Environmental activist and Convener of Salem Citizens’ Forum
- Ameer, Director
- Nityanand Jayaraman, Writer & Activist, Chennai
- AnandPatwardhan, Documentary Film maker
- Paul Murphy, Currently Teachta Dála (TD, equivalent of MP in Irish Parliament), formerly Member of European Parliament
- Dr. V. Arasu, Former Head of Department of Tamil Literature, Madras University
- Binu Mathew, Editor, CounterCurrents.org
- KP Sasi, Film Maker, Writer and Activist
- Satya Sagar, Writer/Journalist
- JagadishG.Chandra, Activist, New Socialist Alternative, Convener of Peoples’ Solidarity Concerns, Bangalore.
- Meghnath, Documentary Film Maker
- AchinVanaik, Retd Professor, University of Delhi
- Nadeem Khan, United Against Hate
- Shaktiman Gosh, National Hawker Federation
- Utkarsh Sinha, Associate Editor, National Voice TV
- Wilfred Dcosta, Indian Social Action Forum
- Anil Chaudhary, PEACE
- Joe Athialy, Delhi Solidarity Group
- Dr.Pankaj Srivastava, Editor, MediaVigil.com
- CP Surendran,, Writer, Poet, Former Editor in DNA
- Sharib Ali, QUILL Foundation
- Sanjay Joshi, Cinema of Resistance
- Irfan Ahmed
- Surendra Rajan
- GautamRaikur, NadiGhatiMorcha
- Ravindra Singh, PSCDS
- Rakesh Bharadwaj, Freelance Theatre Artist
- Shahina KK, Journalist
- Anil Varghese, Delhi Solidarity Group
- Apoorvanand, Professor, Delhi University
- Josna,Critical Quest
- Anwar Ali, Poet
- John Dayal, Rights Activist, Member of National Integration Council
- Ashok Choudhary, General Secretary, All India Union of Forest Working People
- Gopal Krishna Editor, ToxicsWatch.com
- Pamela Philipose, Public Editor, The Wire
- Sathyaraj, Kalaimamani Award Winning Tamil Actor
- Dhirendra Panda, Convener, Civil Society Forum on Human Rights (CSFHR) and Secretary, Centre for the Sustainable use of Natural and Social Resources (CSNR)
- Dr.Goldy M George, Convener CNSSS
- SudhirPattnaik, Senior Journalist, Bhubaneswar
- Tapan Bose, Filmmaker & Human Rights Activist
- Anjali Monteiro, Professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences
- Yemuna sunny
- R.MANOHAR, Regional Coordinator, Human Rights Defenders Alert India(HRDA) & All India Network of NGO’s and Induviduals(AiNNI)
- Alwyn Prakash D’Souza, Head, Human Rights and Training Unit
- Clare Doyle , Socialist World
- SiritungaJayasuriya, Socialist World
- Ramdas Rao
- Akhil Sasidharan, Cinematographer.
- Geetha Seshu, Activist
- Simona Sawhney
- Divya Bhatt, Film Maker
- ShobhaAggarwal, lawyer, Delhi
- Amit Bhaduri, Professor Emeritus, JNU.
- T. Balaji, Service Engineer
- Ramneek Singh, Playwright, Bangalore
- Rounak Ray, Student
- SarbaniBandyopadhyay, Assistant Professor, St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata
- Prabhakaran ( student)
- Majid Hassan Khan, PhD Student, IIT Bombay
- Nithyanandhan. B, Self Employed
- Stephen Edwards, Socialist Alternative, Chicago Illinois
- Joyoti Chowdhury (Student)
- UshakRahaman, Physicist
- RajaramanSundaresan, independent researcher
- SajidJangi, student
- Prem Kumar, Assistant professor, Periyaruniversity, Salem, Tamil nadu.
- Shiyas.R.S , Film student
- Sascha Stanicic of SAV – Sozialistische Alternative, Germany
- Eljeer Hawkins, Socialist Alternative Harlem/Bronx branch US
- Srinath Perera, Attorney -at-law, General Secretary, Free Trade Union Centre
- Per-Åke Westerlund, national chairman, Socialist Justice Party (RättvisepartietSocialisterna), Sweden.
- Vinod Raja, Cinematographer, film maker
- Wally Kennedy, Community Advocate London. Solidarity.
- Negin Nazeer, Self Employed (Cinema)
- Faizi S, Ecologist
- Tirna Chatterjee, research scholar.
- Sutapa Chakraborty, Activist
- Sumit Chowdhury, filmmaker and activist in people’s movements
- P Victor Vijay Kumar, Writer
- OliullahLaskar, Advocate, Gauhati High Court
- P R Dullay, author,Denmark
- Pushpa Achanta, journalist & consultant, Bangalore
- Rajeshwari, Private Employee
- Saptarshi Banerjee, Self Employed
- Naveen Angamuthu, New Socialist Alternative.
- Sascha Stanicic, SAV – Sozialistische Alternative, Germany
- Sajith Attepuram, PodhuvudamaiIyakkam , Tamil Nadu
- Amudhan, Filmmaker
- Ajith Kumar B, Film Maker
- Vivek Sakpal, Curator, People’s Voice
- Mustafa Desamangalam, Film Maker