Human rights activists Thirumurugan Gandhi, Daison Jose, Ilamaran, Arun who were arrested on 21.5.2017 for conducting a candlelight vigil for the dead in the Srilankan civil war have been booked under notorious “The Goondas Act” in short. They were denied bail on 25.5.2017 when they were held under different charges. After sensing that the initial charges filed against them will not hold judicial scrutiny, The Tamilnadu Police Charged the activists with “ The Goondas Act “ on 29-05-2017. They are detained in Puzhal Central Prison.
Thirumurugan Gandhi is one of the most committed and honest activists from Southern India, who fights for the democratic rights of all people for the past nine years. He consistently advocates for the democratic aspirations of Eelam Tamils, Palestinians, Kurds, Kashmiris, Western Saharans and Sikhs, he also regularly lobbies with the diplomats of the global South to realize the interests of the nations without states, indigenous peoples and communities which have faced war crimes against the imperial forces in the Geneva human rights sessions in the United Nations (UN) for the past three years. He has represented Tamil civil society in Permanent people’s Tribunal for Srilanka in Dublin and Ireland (2010 and 2013) permanent people’s tribunal is an opinion tribunal whose activities include identifying and publicizing cases of systematic violation of fundamental rights, especially cases in which national and international legislation fails to defend the rights of the people. He has also been in the forefront to call for the justice of custodial murder of migrant laborers, water rights of the farmers , worker rights ,refugee rights, disability rights , campaign against death penalty, rights of the linguistic and religious minorities, Tribal rights, Transgender rights and have been active in protesting against new WTO rules pertaining to public distribution system, privatization of electricity , Eco-sensitive projects like hydraulic fracturing, Nuclear reactors in dense populations. His organization “May 17 movement” stood firm in opposing the Free market-Hindu fundamentalist policies of the Modi Government from day one. He is also a frequent participant in television debates pertaining to the issues mentioned above in regional and national media. His Strong Convictions and uncompromising attitude in standing for the weak have unsettled many powerful people in India. One of the many reasons, he is being hounded now.
From 2011, every year Chennai’s Marina beach hosts remembrance for the dead happened during the end of the genocidal war. The event which receives wide participation from Ordinary civilians of every political complexion including Writers, Artists, Human rights activists, Students, and lawyers becomes a place for collective mourning to respect the fallen. This event acts as a focal point in the public discourse to bring the perpetrators of the horrific crimes to account for their evil deeds. The United Nations Basic Principles on the Right to Remedy and Reparation recognizes “commemorations and tributes to the victims” as a form of reparation. It also became an event where the remedies for the crimes are contemplated and discussed. Over time, due to the increased political consciousness of the public and the activists coordinating the event, the place also became an important venue where injustice happening to Kashmiris, Kurds, Migrant laborers, Women, Physically challenged, the fisher folks, Tribal issues started receiving serious attention and expression for solidarity. The event has occupied an important place in the Tamilnadu’s cultural calendar. “Remembering the dead is a fundamental right of the culture of every people and begs the question of how weeping commons, remembering their loved ones, can threaten public order and safety?
The Tamil Nadu Prevention of Dangerous Activities of Bootleggers, Drug Offenders, Forest Offenders, Goondas, Immoral Traffic Offenders, Slum Grabbers and Video Pirates Act, 1982 (Tamil Nadu Act 14 of 1982), called “The Goondas Act” in short is a preventive detention law used by the state governments to attack and intimidate political opponents who speak truth to power. This legislation tramples upon the personal liberty of a citizen without giving him a chance to opt for judicial scrutiny, The Act is meant to be used only under exceptional circumstances in cases of grave and imminent threat to public safety and order. A total of 8,450 of them have been detained under the Goondas Act and the NSA since 2011 and many of them have been thrown outside by the court.
One of the main principles of legal jurisprudence is that any person accused of any offense should be given an equal chance to be heard and to defend himself in the courts of law, This preventive law denies the detained person this chance. The procedure requires that within seven weeks of detention, the detainee should be brought before the Board, which has three retired judges as its members. When these avenues fail, the higher courts can be approached. The majority of the cases have been habeas corpus petitions on which the higher judiciary ruled in favor of the victims, coming down heavily on the States mainly for non-application of mind and procedural lapses
One of the main principles of legal jurisprudence is that any person accused of any offense should be given an equal chance to be heard and to defend himself in the courts of law, This preventive law denies the detained person this chance. It is therefore apparent that the purported charges are mala fide and dangerous to the functioning of healthy civil society. It is to be noted that the legal attack is part of the trend where the rulers of the Indian Union trying to dismantle, intimidate, coerce dissenting activists. No one should be arrested for mourning the dead. When RSS can be given permission to hold rallies on Marina Beach and ADMK members can assemble in large numbers there to pay homage to Jayalalitha, why should other social organizations or political parties be prevented from using Marina Beach for their public events? Will the Chennai police stop bowing down abjectly to the parties ruling center and state and show some spine in implementing laws impartially? We are worried about the shrinking democratic space for reason and deliberation, one of the cornerstones of a constitutional democracy. We call upon all the democratic forces across India to show solidarity to one of our fellow beings.
Strike Down the draconian “The Goondas Act” Immediately
We deplore the recent wave of arrests by the government of Tamilnadu and the use of force to disperse peaceful protests. We demand the immediate release of all political prisoners, an end to political prosecutions, and a return to the rule of law and respect for human rights.
Government authorities must respect dissent and their own constitution. We, therefore, demand our fundamental rights be respected and immediate release of the political prisoners.
We urge the government authorities to ensure the physical and moral integrity of all the activists detained.