Chennai: Even as the kolam (rangoli) protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), 2019 and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) spreads across Tamil Nadu, with massive participation cutting across political parties, the Chennai Police Commissioner gave an unexpected twist on Thursday, alleging a key protester’s ‘links’ with Pakistan. Incidentally, the police chief’s statement comes the day Prime Minister Narendra Modi also invoked the Pakistan narrative while attacking anti-CAA-NRC protesters across the country.
At a press conference here, police chief A K Viswanathan alleged that the woman protestor, Gayathri, was working as a research associate with Bytes For All (B4A), an organisation connected with Association of All Pakistan Citizen Journalists (AAPCJ).
The commissioner said further investigation was on to ascertain the “links” of the accused.
It may be recalled that seven protesters were detained in Besant Nagar on Sunday for drawing protest rangolis on the streets, saying ‘No to CAA-NRC’, which spread across the state. Viswanathan also released the Facebook details of the protestor, compromising her privacy and security.
Incidentally, the protestor, Gayathri Kandhadai, who was among the seven detained, is an advocate and human rights activist, and has submitted a dissertation regarding the status of minorities in nine Asian countries, including India, Pakistan and Bangladesh during 2015-16.
Rejecting the police chief’s allegations, Henry Tiphagne, a human rights activist, said it was one way of branding all anti-CAA-NRC protestors as “anti-nationals”.
“The present trend of branding protestors as Pakistan supporters is followed by the police too. This is dangerous for the privacy and security of the individuals. That the police commissioner himself is resorting to such tactics, is unfortunate”, he said, adding that B4A had no physical office and it simply coordinates social and human rights activists across the globe.
“The police commissioner jumping to the conclusion of a protestor having Pakistan links based on her research work, is unimaginable. This will have severe consequences, which he must be aware of”, he added.
Gayathri, while speaking in another conference, said, “I have been working for human rights of people of different backgrounds and countries. My research clearly points out the problems faced by the different minorities, including religious, sexual and atheists in nine Asian countries. The ruling party must appreciate me for the findings, instead they are targeting peaceful protests and protestors” adding that by releasing the details of my Facebook profile, the commissioner has put my safety under risk.”
Describing the protest on Sunday Gayathri said: “Only a handful of protestors were present in Besant Nagar on December 29, for which the state government had deployed more than 60 police. I don’t understand the need for such a high number of police for a very peaceful, non-disruptive protest.”
Responding to the allegation of the police commissioner of “forcefully” drawing anti -CAA-NRC slogans in the rangolis in front of certain houses, Gayathri said, “Such an incident never took place. The media people were present during the protest and if such a thing had happened, it could have come out that day itself.”
Three advocates who went to enquire about the whereabouts of the protestors, were also detained by the police.
They were unlawfully detained while they went to discharge their professional duties, Ajmal Khan, a senior advocate of Madurai bench of the Madras High Court, said while addressing the press conference.
“The chairman of the bar council has voiced his concerns when the advocates protested against the CAA, which is not his job. But when the advocates are unlawfully detained, he fails to respond,” he added.
The police commissioner had also alleged that Gayathri was also associated with Arappor Iykkam, an independent organisation that has raised corruption issues against the state government. The organisation, in a detailed press release on Thursday, accused the Tamil Nadu government and the police commissioner of targeting them. The organisation had alleged that the minister for municipal administration, rural development and implementation of special programmes, S P Velumani, was involved in large-scale corruption in the Coimbatore and Chennai corporations. The state government has filed six cases in the past six months against the organisation.
The Tamil Nadu government, led by the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam or AIADMK, has been criticised by Opposition parties for functioning as the “junior partner” of the BJP-led Union government. Many government actions, such as banning anti-CAA-NRC protests and strong police action on the protestors, even to the extent of branding them as pro- Pakistan, resonate with what the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders have been saying, justifying the Opposition’s accusation, say political analysts.