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Thirumurugan Gandhi, an activist and chief co-ordinator of the May 17 Movement  and Daison, Ilamaran and Arun Kumar of Tamilarvidiyalkatchi are behind Bars in Tamil Nadu for over 100 days. Their crime was to light candle in memory  of the Eelam Tamils who were massacred in the 2009 civil war in Srilanka. Over 1,50,000 Eelam Tamils lost their lives in the 2009 Genocidal war and nearly 40,000 were killed in the last days of war alone. May 17 movement was started to champion the rights of the Eelam Tamils.

Ever since end of ware, the May 17 movement has been organizing a candle light vigil in the Marina beach, in the month of May to commemorate the genocide. The common public participates in thousands in the peaceful candle light vigil event.

This year the government was hell bent not to allow it from happening. There were two major reasons why the government did not want the Candle light vigil from happening. One, the memory of the Jallikattu protest which brought the government to its knees still haunts of the ruling class. It was keen on not allowing any political even happening in Marina beach. The State police even went to the extent demeaning the word comrade as anti-national and advised the parents in the state to lookout of their children’s possible contacts with such anti-nationals.  When any social issue, be it the issue of Farmers, or the Hydrocarbon extraction projects which have faced stiff opposition in the past, or the ongoing issue of NEET exam, hits the headline the police force lands in the Marina beach fearing another Jallikattu like protest.

Another important reason was that the May 17 movement was in the forefront of the struggle against the communal and the corporate agenda of the Indian State. Whenever Modi had visited TamilNadu, the May 17 movement organized a Black Flag protest. Protests against Environmental disastrous projects like Koodankulam, Methane and other hydrocarbon extraction, GAIL pipepline projects in agricultural lands were facing stiff opposition and the aggressive neo-liberal push by the BJP government were taken forward by the May17 movement.

This year the police denied permission to conduct the candle light vigil and issued a public statement warning any one from attending the event.On the day of the candle light vigil, May 18, the beach leading to the road was cordoned off. Only public transport was allowed and there were police personnel in each of the bus stops, harassing the public and questioning them why they had come to marina. Any one wearing a black shirt, including a north Indian who had come to visit the famous beach of Chennai was arrested without question. As many as 300 people including the convener of the May 17 movement were beaten up and arrested on that day. One of the police officers later confessed that they had pressure from above to carry out such gestapo style detentions. Nazi style tyranny on people holding candles to remember the massacred!

Following the arrest, cases were filed against 17 of them who came for the candle light vigil. The official facebook page of TamilNadu police released a short video demonizing the activists, yet another scare tactics to stop them from getting attention of the youth. On May 21 Goondas act, a notorious detention act was slapped on 4 of the activistsThirumurugan Gandhi, Daison, Ilamaran and Arun. The Goondas act, a TamilNadu legislative act has been time and again used against the activists who are critical of the state. The Chennai police have foisted many more false cases on the comrades including protesting against demonetization, to justify the use of Goondas. Documents that were produced before the court as evidences even had forged signatures.

Contrary to what the government believed, its intimidation tactics have only resulted in mass support to the Comrades who are behind bars among the Tamil youth.Prominent political parties, Organizations DravidarKazhagam, DravidarVidudhalaiKazhagam, ThanthaiperiyarDravidarKazhagam, PUCL, New Socialist Alternative, Eelam Tamil organisationsSwiz Tamil Organisation, Tamil DesiyaMakkalMunnani, Tamil Solidarity, Transnational Sivalingam, Ganjendrakumarponambalam, sureshPremachandran, AnanthiSaseendran, Leading Film directors and Actors Barathiraja, Ameer, Ram, Vetrimaran,Karu.Palaniappan, Music directors of the Tamil Film industry GV Prakash James Vasanth, Lyricists Tharamarai, PalaniBarathi, Artists and Writers Trotsky Marudhu, Veerasandhanam, Arul Ezhilan, KuttyRevathi, Piyush Manush, AazhiSenthilNadhan, DivyaBarathi, Kavitha Muralidharan, Retired Judge Hari Parandhaman and many others came out openly

The case is in the Chennai High court and the TamilNadu government is using delay tactics to stop the release of the 4 activists. Latest among them is the newly appointed attorney general asking for time to go through the evidences given by the state. Goondas Act was used on one another student activist in TamilNadu, Valarmathi, who was involved in the campaign against Hydrocarbon extraction projects in TamilNadu. The High court quashed the case and the released the student activist. Such is the unlawful, indiscriminate use of detention acts against activists in TamilNadu.

As Director Karu.Palaniappan put it in one of his speeches, “ There are protests against GM mustard.But In TamilNadu we have a Chief minister who is Genetically Modified by BJP genes.  He has lost all instincts to protect state rights but is ready to use power on dissenting voices”. This is the state of TamilNadu politics which has been ground for numerous protests in the past on issues that affect not just TamilNadu but whole of the subcontinent.

With the protest against NEET exam gathering steam, the TN government is scrambling for arguments to keep the activists of May17 movement behind bars at cost. When Bars don’t scare the dissenters, the communal forces are resorting to Bullets as in the case of Journalist Gauri Lankesh.

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