Release Thirumurugan Gandhi – Defend the right to protest

Tamil Solidarity strongly condemns the arrest of Thirumurugan Gandhi and demands the Indian and Tamil Nadu state release him immediately.

Mr Gandhi committed no crimes. He is a political campaigner and human rights defender. The Tamil Nadu and Indian government must withdraw the case immediately and release him. He was also arrested last year for defending the right to protest and kept in prison for four months for no valid reason.

Mr Gandhi is a leading member of the May 17 movement which 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. 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.
Mr Thirumurugan Gandhi has been a strong opponent of the repressive measures of both the Tamil Nadu state and central governments. His stand in defending the Sri Lankan Tamils’ rights, including the right to self-determination, is very well-known among Tamils across the world. Hence he was invited to speak at the United Nation Security Council this year. He was arrested on his way back and has now been charged with sedition.

The crime of sedition in India dates back to the 1879s and the era of British colonial rule and the crime of sedition carries a maximum punishment of life imprisonment. The BBC reports that Mahatma Gandhi, who was charged with sedition, famously said the law was “designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen”.

There are indications that the Tamil Nadu government is becoming increasingly undemocratic and repressive. Killings, beatings and mass arrests of protesters have become regular occurrences.
Young people in general don’t have any trust in either the Tamil Nadu government or the central government of Narendra Modi. Unable to fully control the situation and push through their rotten projects in favour of big profits, Modi’s government is resorting to repressive measures. Protesters are intimidated – with arrest or the threat of arrest. All political activities are closely monitored by the state. The state is attempting to create a hostile environment to all political activism. This must be stopped.

But the young people have no choice but to struggle for their future. The mass movements in Tamil Nadu have made some small gains. These victories have given confidence to the youth, workers and all activists.

Ever since the 2009 massacre of Tamils in Sri Lanka, Tamil nationalism has also been on the rise in Tamil Nadu.

Tamil Solidarity demands the immediate release of Thirumurugan Gandhi and an end to all the repressive measures against political activists. We appeal to trade unions, international human rights organisations and all activists to come to the defence of the right to protest and all democratic rights in Tamil Nadu and across India.