20, Mar 2018 | CJP Team
Tirunelveli District Collector Sandeep Nanduri imposed Section 144 of the CrPC in his district on March 19, just a day before the Ram Rajya Rath Yatra, a procession organised by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) reached the city. However, given that nearly 40 people, including those who were peacefully protesting against the communal Rath Yatra are the ones who have been reportedly arrested, one wonders if the Tamil Nadu administration has either unwittingly played into the hands of Hindutva supremacists or may be even helping further their nefarious agenda.
The provisions of Sec 144 disallow the assembly of three or more people at a spot to prevent mob violence and it will remain in place in Tirunaveli until 6am on Friday, March 23.
The 41 day Rath Yatra started in February 2018 from Ayodhya and is travelling through many states where elections are due this year. While the stated objective of the Rath Yatra is to mobilise support for the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya, there have been fears of communal violence being triggered along its route.
CJP had started a campaign to Stop the Communal Rath Yatra and appealed to secular minded citizens to protest peacefully and creatively against the forces that conspire to tear apart India’s delicate and diverse socio-cultural fabric. This had inspired the March for Secularism that is scheduled to start from Chennai on March 21.
Interestingly, the Tirunelveli District Collector’s decision was based on a report by the Superintendent of Police that there were plans to provoke communal tension. An order from the Collector and District Magistrate noted that “even a minor incident will snowball into a major communal clash”. More than 900 police personnel have reportedly been deployed in Sengottai and other nearby areas.
However, many of those arrested are actually people who were protesting the Rath Yatra itself given its clearly communally divisive agenda. This makes one wonder who is the imposition of Sec 144 actually helping? It also suggests that perhaps the state machinery has been ‘saffronised’, given how the Rath Yatra itself wasn’t banned but peaceful protestors who were actually arrested.
Moreover, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) working president M. K. Stalin had criticised the Rath Yatra, saying it would “disturb the communal harmony and peace in the state,” and had called for it to be banned from Tamil Nadu. However, Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami refused the DMK’s and Congress’s calls for banning the Rath Yatra. DMK members were eventually expelled from the House; Stalin’s speech was expunged, and he as well as DMK members were detained after he mounted a ‘road roko’.
The People’s Platform Against Fascism (PPAF) has condemned the imposition of Section 144 given how t has virtually removed every road block in the path of the communal Rath Yatra. It must be remembered, as the PPAF noted, that when L. K. Advani led the Rath Yatra in 1990 and attempted to enter Bihar, then Chief Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav barred the Yatra from entering and made preventative arrests more than 50,000 RSS and kar sevaks. It appears that the Tamil Nadu state machinery is not acting to prevent the Sangh Parivar’s saffron agenda, but is perhaps helping further it.