SIPCOT Industrial Park Protesters Harassed

SIPCOT Industrial Park Protesters

Twenty-one people were arrested on November 3/4th, and 20 were detained in Violation of due process of arrest[1]. They were taken to different police stations and detained at Vellore Central Prison. Some poresters were excluded and were subjected to solitary confinement in the high-security block at Vellore Central Prison.[2] The arrested poresters were further isolated from their fellow inmates and family and were placed in Several Central Prisons like Madurai Central Prison, Palayamkottai Central Prison, Coimbatore Central Prison, Cuddalore Central Prison and Trichi Central Prison. The Rest were detained at Vellore Prison.

Since July 2, 2023, farmers have been engaged in a peaceful protest against the acquisition of 3,174 acres of wetlands by SIPCOT for an industrial park. The project stretches over nine villages and is proposed on agricultural lands, severely impacting the farmers’ livelihood. Instead of engaging in a meaningful dialogue with the farmers regarding their concerns, the government of Tamil Nadu has responded with a crackdown on their peaceful protest and the criminalisation of human rights defenders and leaders associated with it.

The Police and district administration had targeted the active participants of the protest against seven members by invoking the Goondas Act (Preventive Detention Act) on November 15, 2023. A Prison in Transit warrant was issued to stop their release on bail. As this matter gained public attention, the present Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, On 22nd November 2023, announced that six of the seven members against whom the Goondas Act was invoked were revoked.[3] On 21st November 2023, before the press release, the families of the arrested poresters were approached by present government party leaders and were intimidated to obtain letters from the family members. That the families will not protest against SIPCOT land acquisition- only then will the Goondas Act will be revoked.

There were 11 FIRs filed against the poresters, and specifically, five FIRs were registered on September 28, 2023, with the same content, except the complaint’s names and details. Invoking the Goondas Act against the poresters is against the directions of the Hon’ble Madras High Court and Supreme Court of India in H.C.P (M.D) No 1710 of 2022 dated November 14, 2022, and SLP Criminal No 1173 and 1174 of 2023, respectively. 

Despite the violation of following the court’s order, they had specifically targeted Mr Arul, S/o Arugumugam. The HRD, Mr. Arul, is an active participant in the Chennai to Salem Highway land acquisition protest and advocates for farmers’ rights and livelihoods.

The Tamil Nadu Government delayed the withdrawal of the detention order under the Goondas Act against the HRD Mr. Arul Arugumugam, who continued to be in detention in Palayamkottai Prison.[4]

Human Rights Defenders Alert approached the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on 28 November 2023, NHRC case No. 3025/22/37/2023. The NHRC disposed of the case with “directions to the concerned authority to take such action as deemed appropriate within 8 weeks”.

A habeas corpus petition was filed before the Madras High Court in HCP No 2381 of 2023; the case was posted on December 4, 2023. On that, the court could not sit due to floods in Chennai, so the judges passed an order giving four weeks’ notice. When the court reopened, a miscellaneous petition in Crl. M.P No. 19708 of 2023, seeking to advance the hearing of the case, was filed. This came up before the division bench of the high court on 19th December 2023. The judges pointed out, “One person raised his voice, and they are threatening him as a villain, here the livelihood of the farmers is affected, the agricultural land is used for commercial purpose”. The judges stated that Mr Arul is an HRD fighting for a public cause, the land owners participated in the agitation, and the allegation of traffic disruption and damage of public property is made in all the cases registered against the protesting farmers.

They questioned the public prosecutor, “Very good lands which are suitable for agriculture are taken away, affecting the livelihood of the farmers without rehabilitation; no court will tolerate that, so why should individuals tolerate this?”

The court noted that this was purely political detention and ordered all files related to this public hearing of the SIPCOT project to be furnished by the next hearing date on 4 January 2024.[5]

On 4th January 2024, the public prosecutor should have filed the counter and furnish the records as ordered by the court. He further stated that the state is going to release the HRD Arul, and if the case is pursued further, the prayer will be infructuous. Upon the public prosecutor’s request, the court posted the case on 8th January 2024.

On 5 January 2024, the government of Tamil Nadu withdrew the detention order against HRD Arul.[6] The Civil society welcomed the decision, although delayed, and the act of continued detention, while 6 others who were similarly detained were released earlier, only pointing out the discrimination made by the government. HRD Arul was detained as a political prisoner upon the orders of the detaining authority, the advice of the advisory board and officials of the home department who had approved the detention. The civil society demands disciplinary action against the detained authorities.[7]

Ashish Reddy is an Advocate and legal researcher who is currently serving as a Regional Coordinator of Human Rights Defenders Alert (HRDA)for southern India. He is also a member of the All India Network of Individuals and NGOs working with State and National Human Rights Institutions (AiNNI).

[1] As per landmark judgement of Hon’ble Supreme Court guidelines in Arnesh Kumar v. State of Bihar (2014) 8 SCC 273 and Asfak Alam V. State of Jharkhand

[2]  This high-security block is meant for terrorists and high-risk criminals.


[4] India: Arrest of human rights defender Arul Arumugam and judicial harassment of key leaders of farmers movement in Tamil Nadu | Front Line Defenders

[5] “4. It appears that the detention order under the Act 14 of 1982 has been passed against the detenu, the husband of the petitioner herein for organising a protest against the land acquisition proposal for SIPCOT. Prima facie, this Court is unable to find any serious crime done by the detenu. The repeated allegation against the detenu is that he intimidated people for participating in the protest and prevented the willing persons from giving lands for public purpose. The fact remains that the detenu along with several others have organized a protest in a peaceful manner and the same was continuing for more than 100 days. It is in the said context, all these accusations have come.

5. Since this Court finds a motive for victimizing the detenu, the learned Additional Public Prosecutor is directed to produce all the files relating to the acquisition proposal and the public hearings, if any, conducted by the second respondent/District Collector as required under the relevant Act or the proposal and every document/communication right from the day when requisition is made by the Department for which the proposed acquisition process was initiated.”

Order of the Hon’ble Madras High Court on 19 December 2023 in H.C.P No 2381 of 2023.


[7] Henri Tiphagne on X: “@HRDA_India & @PeoplesWatch welcome the final decision of the Government of Tamil Nadu, though delayed to withdraw the detention order under the #Goondasact against the farmer #ArulArumugam presently in detention in #Palayamkottai Prison . The act of his continued detention…” / X (

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