Chennai: The Masscom PG student detained under the Goondas Act has been long linked to the banned Maoist movement and was even involved in recruiting sympathisers from the campuses in the western belt, police said.
“We would think a hundred times, a thousand times, before considering action against a student. And in this case, it's detention under the Goondas Act. And in this case, it's a woman student. We wouldn't have done this if we were not forced by evidence and witnesses to get convinced that she is a threat to society”, a senior officer, closely involved in long-time monitoring of extremists in the state, said while explaining the case of M.Valarmathi. She was detained under the Goondas Act on Monday after being arrested on July 12 for agitating against the Kathiramangalam hydrocarbon project.
Top police sources said the 23-year-old MA student in Mass Communication and Journalism at the Periyar University in Salem had close links with Maoist activists and was in fact recruiting sympathisers from the campuses to join the movement.
“She had taken a student named Santosh from Angalankurichi in Salem to the tri-junction (the Maoist hub in the forest area in the TN-Karnataka-Kerala border) last year. While she and her companion Parthiban returned after three months, Santosh stayed back”, said a senior police officer.
Another officer said Valarmathi was with activist Solomon when he threw a chappal at Pon Radhakrishnan when the Union minister visited Salem on March 16 to condole the family of Dalit JNU student Muthukrishnan who had committed suicide in Delhi. While Solomon is out on bail after arrest, Parthiban is “under watch”, he said.
Valarmathi is the first woman activist to be detained under the Goondas Act in Tamil Nadu. The Act prohibits her release from jail for one year unless the detention itself is quashed by a competent court.
Predictably, almost all opposition parties have come down strongly against Valarmathi's detention — that too “just for distributing pamphlets that protest against the hydrocarbon project. Salem police commissioner had on Monday invoked the Goondas Act against her citing six pending cases against her. Valarmathi was arrested along with her friends in April this year in Karur from a train when they headed to Neduvasal, a village in Pudukottai district, where local people were protesting against the hydrocarbon project. They had spent about a month in Tiruchy jail.
“We condemn the fascist action of the Tamil Nadu government through the detention of Valarmathi under the Goondas Act. This is the first time a social activist is being detained under the draconian law in the political history of Tamil Nadu," Mugilan, coordinator of Tamil Nadu Environment Protection Movement said, pointing out that the Committee for Protection of Nature, of which she was a member, was not a banned organisation.
"Valarmathi had only distributed pamphlets and campaigned among the people. Constitution permits such democratic forms of protest, yet she has been detained under the Goondas Act," he said.
Political leaders condemn detention
Leaders of various political parties have condemned the police action of invoking the Goondas Act on 23-year-old Salem student M. Valarmathi arrested for distributing pamphlets to youngsters urging them to support the Neduvasal protests. They demanded the state government to withdraw the case and set her free. They sought the release of all those arrested for staging protests in a “democratic manner.”
Condemning her detention under the Goondas Act, DMK working president M. K. Stalin said Valarmathi, Thirumurugan Gandhi and Prof. Jayaraman and others had only staged the protests “in a democratic manner” and argued that they should be released immediately. He also flayed the government for its dual stand, especially claiming that it would not allow the hydrocarbon project inside the Assembly while outside it had allowed the police to take action against the protesters.
MDMK general secretary Vaiko urged the state government to release her immediately. “Arresting those who raise voice against the government under Goondas Act strangles democracy,” he said and added that the action against the woman student was strongly condemnable and she should immediately be released.
CPI state secretary R. Mutharasan, who also demanded her release, said that the detention of Valarmathi went against the Constitution guaranteed right to propagate and freedom of expression. Tamizhar Vazhvurimai Katchi president Velmurugan said that in a never before manner, Tamil Nadu has become a hub of protests as people are agitating against projects that would harm them.