Thirteen days have passed since the disappearance of activist S.Mugilan, hours after he had addressed a press conference in Chennai. During the press conference on February 15, he had provided documented proof of the involvement of senior police officials in orchestrating violence in Thoothukudi during last year’s anti-Sterlite protests, where at least 13 people had been killed in the police firing. He had specifically named Indian Police Service (IPS) officers, Shailesh Kumar Yadav who was inspector general of police of south zone and Kapil Kumar Saratkar who was the Tirunelveli deputy inspector general of police. Both were transferred out of the area in June.
A Habeas Corpus petition is currently pending in the Tamil Nadu High Court, while activists on the ground are demanding a CBI investigation in the case. Speaking to NewsClick, Sudha Ramalingam, Mugilan’s advocate explained, “According to our sources, Mugilan boarded the train from Chennai to go to Madurai, however, he did not reach his destination. CCTV recordings have been produced in the court by the police and the public prosecutor offering their version of events, stated that he may not have travelled in the train at all. But according to his friends, his mobile phone remained active until 1 a.m. on the intervening night of February 15-16, post which there are no traces of him. Currently, the matter is dated to be taken up on March 4.”
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The activist has been very vocal and at the forefront of the campaigns against sand mining in the Cauvery River, the Kudankulam project, and the latest one- against the Sterlite plant in Tuticorin. Activists in the state have been alleging that the police are acting out of fear and the timing of his disappearance post his press meet exposing the police directly points to an attempt by the state and the police machinery to muzzle the voices of those dissenting.
Speaking to NewClick, Kanakaraj, a social activist based in Chennai, said, “The government until now has remained silent on the issue and has not gone ahead to give out any credible information on his disappearance, it is clear that they are acting out of fear of being implicated since they stand exposed.”
Last week, several activists including the likes of Prashant Bhushan, writer V Geetha, and activists Medha Patkar, Nityanand Jayaraman and Suhas Kolhekar had written a letter to the Tamil Nadu government urging for the safe return of the activist to his family and a speedy investigation in his case. Previously, Amnesty India had also sought an enquiry over his case stating that, “The Tamil Nadu government must ensure that dissenting voices in the state are protected, and that human rights defenders, activists, journalists and lawyers can work without fear.”
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