A 26-year-old resident of Chennai named Kanaganathan was arrested by the Virugambakkam police on Sunday for allegedly shouting slogans against Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a BJP meeting in his area. This after cadre of the party surrounded his house and demanded that he be booked for raising the slogans. Kanaganathan had allegedly shouted 'Down Down Modi' from the terrace of his building, while the BJP meeting was underway in a public place.
When TNM asked the Inspector of the Virugambakkam station exactly why he had been arrested, he said, "There was a BJP gathering there and his slogans created tension."
When pressed for a legal reason for the arrest, the inspector claimed Kanaganathan has been booked under two sections. While he revealed that he was booked for disrupting public harmony, he refused to divulge the other section. He further asked the reporter to meet the accused in jail for further details.
Speaking to TNM, human rights lawyer Sudha Ramalingam confirms that the arrest itself is unlawful. "Irrespective of whether he screamed it from his house or the road, you can't arrest someone for raising a slogan. That is not how the law or democracy works," she says, "The Supreme Court itself has said that people should not be remanded unless there is a threat of them evading arrest or influencing witnesses."
She further adds that this falls under the list of arrests made in the country, of people who exercise their democratic right to protest.
"There is no law that prohibits you from expressing your opinion. It is a basic right. This is a scare tactic used by the government and police," she says, "This will serve as a warning to others who want to voice their opinion. The process itself is their punishment."