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Wednesday, April 04, 2007 

State Terrorism - Atrocity Against Makkhal Mandram

Introduction
K
ancheepuram People’s Forum or Makkal Mandram is based in Kancheepuram and has been actively working since 2000, among marginalized sections of people like Tribals (Irulars), Dalits, Women, rural and urban poor in more than 60 villages. Makkal Mandram takes up issues of gross economic inequalities faced by these people. Makkal Mandram considers the social, cultural & political repression of these people as violations of their basic human rights; Makkal Mandram conducts campaigns for bringing such awareness among the people; It works to get central and state laws implemented in favour of the marginalized people;


Issues taken up by Makkal Mandram:

Makkal Mandram has got tribals working as bonded labourers (who are Irular tribals) released from the clutches of their owners and conducted long struggles for their rehabilitation to ensure basic rights for them, like livelihood, housing and security / safety from their erstwhile owners. It has confronted and pressurized the district administration to give some land and compensation to these people. Makkal Mandram supported these Irulars to form the Makkal Mandram Brick Workers Welfare Society to run a co-operative brick kiln themselves.

Makkal Mandram has been taking up the issue of caste oppression of Dalits at the hands of the upper castes and some backward castes who perceive themselves to be higher placed (and therefore superior) in the caste hierarchy.

Makkal Mandram has been taking up issues of violence against women, which is deeply rooted, in our patriarchal society. Makkal Mandram is doing awareness raising work and taking up campaigns against female feticide and infanticide, child sexual abuse, dowry harassment, wife battering, domestic violence, sexual harassment, rape, murder and other assaults on women. Makkal Mandram has been instrumental in getting sexual assaulters of Irular tribal women convicted under SC/ST (Atrocities) Act.

Makkal Mandram was in the forefront of the campaign to expose the misdeeds of Godmen like Jayendra Saraswati & Vijayendra Saraswati, Shankaracharyas of Kancheepuram.

Makkal Mandram has also taken up environmental issues like sand quarrying in the river beds, most of which takes place illegally. This also becomes a very sensitive issue for the administration as a lot of corruption and big money is involved.

Problems with District Administration and police:

In taking up these activities, Makkal Mandram often has had to confront the district administration, revenue and police departments. Land remains a basic issue of confrontation as the district administration refuses to give land to the poor people but gives away thousands of acres of government ‘poromboke’ land to foreign companies. Hence the administration has been trying to suppress Makkal Mandram for the past several months now in various ways due to several of the campaigns and issues taken up.

The Donkey Protest:

Many people of the Irular community are living in riverbeds and roadsides with no land or houses of their own. Since they have been living in the same place for years together, Makkal Mandram represented to the District Administration to give atleast 3 cents of land to each family. This issue has been taken up vigorously for the past more than a year. With a change in government in May 2006, Makkal Mandram hoped to get a better response as the DMK party has promised 2 acres of land to each poor family during the elections. The District Collector too was appointed by this govt. Hence Makkal Mandram met him several times with delegations of Irular people concerning this demand. However, he resolutely refused to accept it. In one meeting on 17.06.2006, he very arrogantly told Makkal Mandram activists that lands in this district are very precious and meant only for companies and I will not give it to these Irulars. So Makkal Mandram took up a weeklong poster campaign highlighting the plight of these people and the administrations indifference to their demands. When that too had no impact, Makkal Mandram decided on a novel method of protest. On 26.06.2006, Makkal Mandram put up a pandal in a prominent place (with police permission) where around 30 persons lay down on mats with files for pillows and chatting on phones etc to signify the working of a typical govt. office. They also had a donkey with a placard around it saying district administration. The people came in a queue to give their representations and memos concerning their requests / demands to the ‘District Administration’ and the donkey kept on eating these promptly! It was a symbolic protest, which was peaceful and democratic. On the collector’s orders, 8 leading activists of Makkal Mandram (4 men and 4 women) were booked under Section 124A (sedition / conspiracy against the state). They came out on getting bail from the Chennai High Court after about 13 days. The sessions court had refused bail as the prosecution strongly objected to granting of bail to them.

After this incident too, Makkal Mandram carried on its regular work and its activists kept meeting the Collector alongwith the rural people from time to time, especially on grievance days.

Parking Fee Protest:

In the month of Feb. 2007, the district administration introduced a new system. All vehicles including two-wheelers and cycles entering the Kancheepuram Collectorate Office premises had to pay parking fees at fixed rates. All government departments are mostly located in this campus. The District Collector was the Chairperson of the Society which was formed to collect this parking fee. The collection of parking fee from the public who have to visit the office complex frequently and repeatedly to get their grievances redressed, in view of lengthy procedural delays put a lot of hardships to the poor people especially those coming from the rural areas. Hence Makkal Mandram opposed the introduction of parking fee. The police denied permission to organize a protest demonstration. Still Makkal Mandram went ahead with the demonstration on 07.02.2007. Several hundreds of people were arrested at around 8.30 am even before they started the demonstration. The police tried to book a case on some 8-10 activists. But when the assembled people all threatened to get arrested, the police finally had to release all of them. This campaign received wide publicity and the public too supported it. Hence the District Administration was forced to withdraw it.

Grievance Day incident

Every Monday is a Grievance Day in Tamil Nadu when people can meet the District Collector with their grievances. Some activists of Makkal Mandram had accompanied the Irular tribal people from Karukkupettai and Muthialpettai villages to the Kancheepuram Collectorate Office to give representations regarding the problems of basic amenities faced by them at the ‘Grievance Day’ meeting on 19.02.2007. They met the collector and gave the representations. When the District Collector, Pradeep Yadav, saw the activists of Makkal Mandram, he got very angry and shouted at them, “Should I do it because you ask me to?” and then abused these women activists using the foulest possible sexist language like “Bastards, Bloody fools” and shrieked “get out”. At this point he jumped up from his seat, gestured violently and threatened them saying “this is the last warning. If you come with these village people again, I will not do anything for them”. He shouted at all the villagers who had come there to get out at once. They got so shocked they left the place at once. The next day, on 20.02.2007, Makkal Mandram did a lot of wall postering in Kancheepuram condemning the Collector’s behaviour.

Sexual Harassment of Makkal Mandram activists and 307 case against women:

On the next day 21.02.2007, there was a Makkal Mandram branch being opened in Nathapettai village. Three Makkal Mandram activists, Asha @ Hemavathy, Sarasu @ Sengodi and Ramesh went to the Bus stand and took a bus. Immediately, three guys got into the bus. One of them came and sat next to Sarasu and pinched her waist. She started crying. Asha and Ramesh noticed this and objected. Immediately, the three eve-teasers caught hold of Ramesh and beat him up. They went on using foul language throughout the 45 minute journey. As the bus neared Nathapettai, one guy jumped down and ran off. The other two followed the Makkal Mandram activists and got off at Nathapettai. Since the programme was being held in an enclosed ground close to the bus stop, several activists of Makkal Mandram had gathered there. When Ramesh narrated the incident to them, they questioned the guys about their behaviour. Those two guys arrogantly challenged Makkal Mandram people. Hence the people caught hold of them and said we will take you to the police station. Just then senior activists of Makkal Mandram arrived there. They tried to intervene and sort out the matter amicably. But one of the eve-teasers rang up his friends and asked them to come with knives and lathis. Hearing this, one of the MM activists rang up all the police stations. But no police help came. Within the next ten minutes, some 30 guys rushed into the ground (it was closed on three sides with a small gate, one side was a paddy field with a narrow passage) and attacked Makkal Mandram activists, mainly women, with thick lathis. Hence, Makkal Mandram activists were forced to defend themselves. In the melee, three male activists from Makkal Mandram and three from the attacker’s side got injured.

The police arrived at the Kancheepuram General Hospital and instead of recording a complaint of eve-teasing arrested Makkal Mandram activists (5 women and 2 men) under several sections including 307 (attempt to murder). The two girls who were sexually harassed on the bus, Asha and Sarasu were also arrested. Asha is a Dalit and Sarasu is a tribal. The FIR also says 50 other unnamed persons were involved in the attack. The three eve-teasers were booked under Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Women Harassment Act. But only one of them was arrested. Two others are still absconding, according to the police. But they have been roaming about the town following women activists of Makkal Mandram.

After this, the police have let loose a rein of terror and harassment against Makkal Mandram and its members and did all kinds of unlawful things.

1. The five women activists were held at the all Women Police Station at Kancheepuram throughout the night of 21.02.2007, without any FIR or case. It was illegal detention. They were informed of their arrest only at 7.30 am the next morning. They were not even allowed to contact the commune members or lawyer and their cell phones were taken away.

2. That night (21.02.2007) two jeepfuls of policemen including the DSP Muniappan forcibly entered the Makkal Mandram Commune at 1.30 in the night to search for other activists. At that time only three women members of the commune were present. The police came without warrant and without any woman police.

3. The next day on 22.02.2007, at around 12.00 noon, DSP Muniappan came with all male police team to search the Makkal Mandram commune (with search warrant). They took away daily expenses account book and some documents. (These had no relevance to the case). This search lasted for more than 3 hours.

4. Kumar and Ramesh were admitted to G.H. and arrested immediately. The police did not allow commune members to meet them. At 1.30 in the night of 21.02.2007, a policeman came in mufti and told Kumar some relative had come to meet him and tried to take him out of the hospital to a lonely spot. It could have been an attempt to encounter him. Kumar was alert and ran back into the hospital. He refused to go anywhere after that.

5. Kumar’s Tata Sumo was towed away from the Govt. hospital without giving information or seizure memo. The lock was broken open by the police. Now the stepney, car radio, some books, one bag, one small money purse with some money and silver anklets etc are missing from it.
6. On 23.02.2007, a big police posse went to Mangalpadi village where rehabilitated bonded labourers have their co-operative brick kiln. On finding only women in the village, DSP Muniappan threatened the women there. He also made enquires about where they had come from. They gave the names of the mills where they were held as bonded labourers earlier. The next day, some erstwhile owners were seen roaming around these villages. This seems to be deliberate intimidation of ex-bonded labourers by the police.

7. The police have gone to other villages where Makkal Mandram is active e.g., Amman Nagar, Orikkai, Kolivakkam and Kamugampalam etc and intimidated the villagers there. Just a few days back, the police went to Nathapettai village where the incident took place and interrogated the Irular people there.

8. From 22.02.2007 till now, goondas have been following Makkal Mandram women activists wherever they go. They keep on whizzing past the commune during the day and night hours too. They make threatening gestures at women activists. There were atleast 6 anonymous calls threatening Mahesh with dire consequences. On the phone they also claim that the DSP and Collector are behind them, so they can do anything.

9. The Collector is reported to have said that he will wipe out Makkal Mandram from the District.

10. There are also apprehensions that some case may be foisted on Mahesh, Jessy and Kumar under Goondas Act or NSA.

11. On 18.03.2007, i.e., today the police arrested ten Irular tribal people from three villages on the same charges viz., Section 307. These were people who had gone to meet the District Collector and give him their representation reg. lack of land pattas, drinking water and other basic facilities, on grievance day held on 19.02.2007. The police seem to have got their names and addresses from the memorandums submitted by them to the District Administration.
Asuran

Related Article:

மக்கள் மன்றத்தின் மீது அரசு எந்திரத்தின் வன்முறை!

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