Tamil Nadu has always had a very high handed police, infamous for extrajudicial killings, torture and arbitrary arrest of political dissidents of all hues. In recent times, thanks to the popular Koodankulam agitation the authoritarian ways of the state police seems to have acquired a ‘nuclear’ edge.
On 6 October 2012, as 13 senior members of the Peoples Democratic Republic Party met at a school in Kundrathur near Chennai city they were all arrested by the ‘Q Branch’, as the local intelligence bureau is called in Tamil Nadu. The arrested members and supporters of the party have been since remanded to judicial custody in Vellore central prison and a case under section Cr. L.A 17 (1) registered against them.The police claimed they all belonged to a banned political outfit and had assembled there secretly and planning ‘some conspiracy’. The police have further told the state media that they were planning to ‘participate in the 2014 parliamentary elections and were discussing about organizing trade union branches in the nearby factories’.
Three of those arrested, Durai Singavelu, Bhaskar and Palani were former members of the CPI (Maoist), who left that party due to political differences four years ago and were functioning openly. The other people arrested on that day include an Asst. Professor in International Tamil Institute, and another is an electronics engineer. The only woman arrested is the wife of Durai Singavelu.
The ‘Peoples Democratic Republic Party’ was launched last year to participate in mass democratic politics in peaceful ways. The new party has a Facebook account by the same name and their party organ ‘Puthiya Porali’ is also openly distributed. The party has also been actively mobilizing public support against the Koodankulam nuclear power plant, perhaps the real reason for the crackdown on its members.
By all accounts, including that of the national and state media, the meeting at the Kundrathur school was a peaceful event to discuss organizational matters and was held with due permission from the school Principal. Since the children of some of the members were studying in the school, the principal willingly permitted them to assemble and discuss in his school premises.
I wonder how such activities, a meeting to discuss participation in parliamentary elections or organize trade unions, can be branded as a conspiracy and illegal. The Constitution of India has made it a fundamental right for every citizen to assemble, organize and float a political outfit to propagate its policies. I firmly believe that by arresting these 13 people, the Tamil Nadu Q Branch police have violated their constitutional rights.
Arresting people who are functioning legally and openly and branding them as ‘extremists’ has no place in a constitutional governance. This is clearly being done with a view to threaten people against organizing themselves.
I strongly condemn this act of the Tamil Nadu police and demand that Durai Singavelu and the 12 others arrested should be released immediately and the case against them be withdrawn.