Indian activist released by court and arrested by police fears for life

By Athula Vithanage

A prominent anti-Hindutva activist who campaigns for corporate accountability expressed fear for his life while being arrested by police for the second time within 48 hours.

Tamil Nadu police moved on the May 17 Movement Leader Thirumurugan Gandhi when he was leaving the office of a police commissioner after recording a statement.

Video footage posted on social media shows him challenging the arrest as a kidnapping.

“If you are restricting my freedom after being released, that is kidnapping” Thirumurugan Gandhi told the police.

“There is a danger to my life. I have no security. There will be no security when I am in police custody.”

The May 17 leader was earlier arrested at the Bangalore airport in the small hours of 9 Thursday when he was returning from Europe.

Tuticorin massacre

A highlight of his European visit was the speech at the 38th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council detailing a police shooting that killed 13 people protesting an environmental disaster caused by the multinational Sterlite Copper factory in Tuticorin (Thoothukudi).

Upon his return he was arrested and produced in the Saidapet Court in Chennai, which refused to remand him on charges of sedition.

He was arrested for a second time when leaving the office of the Joint Commissioner of Police after recording a statement following his release.

While in Europe, Thirumurugan Gandhi was able to put the Tuticorin massacre into context, “to show that it was the tip of the iceberg,” said the International Human Rights Association (IMRV) based in Bremen, Germany.

“The massacre brought to surface the multidimensional onslaught that is being carried out on the people of Tamil Nadu by an alliance between the Indian state, powerful multinational corporations and the western powers that underwrites this diabolical union,” said IMRV spokesman Viraj Mendis.

"With disturbing facts and figures he explained the environmental destruction, the nullification of the rights of the masses to land that they live on, the elimination of democratic and human rights, and the assault on humanitarian cultural forms of the people on the altar of reactionary Hindutva ideology," he added.

Political vendetta

In a public appeal calling for the release of Thirumurugan Gandhi, Tamil Solidarity, based in London recalled that the  May 17 movement was formed in response to the massacre of Tamils that took place in Sri Lanka in 2009.

“May 17 have been demanding justice for the victims of this brutal genocidal slaughter, as well as other democratic rights,” it said in a statement.

“The May 17 movement has also added its voice to the big protest movements that developed in Tamil Nadu in recent times. Whether it’s the protests against Sterlite, a multinational corporate that wanted to loot the area’s natural resources or the recent campaign that is taking place against the proposed highway that will destroy many mountains, rivers and rich farm lands, May 17 has been on the side of the protesters.”

“This arrest stinks,” said Bangalore based Peoples’ Solidarity Concerns condemning it as a politically motivated move.

“Treating him like a common criminal, is political vendetta and nothing else. Thirumurugan Gandhi and the May 17th movement have been in the forefront of many pro-people mass movements.”

Tamils in Northern Sri Lanka staged a protest demanding the release of Thirumurugan Gandhi.

“The continuous harassment of Thirumurugan Gandhi by the Indian Government is unacceptable,” said the Jaffna based Tamil Civil Society Forum (TCSF).☐



Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

  • JDS is the Sri Lankan partner organization of international media rights group, Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The launching of this website was made possible by the EU’s European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), of which Reporters Without Borders is a beneficiary.