By Rohan Premkumar
COIMBATORE: The Coimbatore city police arrested two persons on Saturday, who had allegedly raised pro-Maoist slogans in front of the Q-Branch office, shortly after the arrest of the five Maoists near Karumathampatty last month.
The duo was identified as Masanamuthu (23) and Nagamanickam (20).
Though the district police claimed that the arrest of three persons on Friday under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), was based on material evidence, activists and lawyers have questioned the rationale and motives behind the arrests. Activists point out that the UAPA has become a tool of suppression of dissent, which is increasingly being used by the state to stifle opposition to the government.
On Friday, Aliyar police arrested Ganapathy (39) from Pollachi, Selvaraj (55) from Sultanpet and Sihamani (27) from Anagalakurichi, for allegedly helping a 23-year-old man, Santhosh Kumar in joining the Maoist movement, after his father lodged a complaint.
A top police officer told Express that there was ‘strong evidence’ that the three men had inducted Kumar into the Maoist movement. He said that the arrests were made based on ‘credible’ information and evidence.
However, sources close to the trio told Express that Selvaraj was a TNSTC worker, while Ganapathy was a merchant. They were well known for their aboveground struggles in abolishing caste-based discrimination and also for their work in empowering tribal communities.
Ganapathy was earlier booked for trespassing into a reserve forest after he managed to talk a tribe into reoccupying the forest from which they had been evicted.
S Balamurugan, a senior lawyer from Coimbatore, who is planning to take up their case, said that the UAPA had become a tool to stifle dissent. He said that the police had acted in an arbitrary manner and arrested the three. They were booked under sections 13(2) (assisting in an unlawful activity of any association declared illegal under Section 3), 18B (punishment for recruiting of any person or persons for terrorist act) and 39 (offence relating to support given to a terrorist organisation) of the UAPA.
D Suresh, the National General Secretary of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), said that the UAPA had all the draconian elements of the now repealed Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) and Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA), minus the safeguards. He added that the law was being used by the police to stigmatise those who questioned the institutions that occupy positions of authority.
He also added that while the arrests have been made in the context of the recent arrests of five Maoists, they had taken on a sinister form due to the repressive nature of the law itself.