A day after actor Mansoor Ali Khan was detained by the Salem police in Chennai, Salem- based environmental activist Piyush Manush was arrested on Monday evening.
Piyush Manush has been protesting the expansion of the Salem airport as well as the proposed eight-lane Chennai-Salem expressway.
Salem Superintendent of Police Georgy George confirmed the arrest to TNM. He said that Piyush had been detained for questioning. He, however, refused to divulge what the activist was being questioned over and where he has been held.
A few days ago, a lawyer named Manikandan had approached the TN DGP with a complaint against Piyush and alleged that the activist was inviting people against developmental projects.
According to preliminary information, the activist has been charged under section 153a (promoting enmity between groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, langauage, etc and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony). TNM has further learnt that the Piyush has been named Accused No 1 along with Mansoor Ali Khan.
Piyush had brought Mansoor Ali Khan to Salem to speak to villagers and had registered his protest through a Facebook post against the actor's arrest.
A video in which Piyush had spoken about against the airport expansion project had drawn criticism from supporters of the project.
Over the past few weeks, the proposed project has been facing stiff resistance from farmers and residents in the villages along the highway.
Speaking to reporters after visiting the area on Saturday, Mansoor Ali Khan said, "I came to Salem to see the water bodies filled with water. If Salem gets an airport, 8-lane highway etc, people can't live in Salem. If the 8-lane road comes, then many trees and hills will be destroyed. It will affect the livelihood of the people who live here. Hence, the state and the central government must not implement it. Moreover, if there are protests against the highway, I will definitely participate. If the eight-lane project is implemented, then I will kill eight people and go to jail."
The ‘Chennai-Salem Greenfield Corridor’ under the Bharatmala Pariyojana, a centrally-sponsored and funded road and highways project, is a 277.30 km highway that involves the development of the Tambaram to Harur Section of NH-179B, Harur to Salem Section of NH-179A, Chengalpattu to Kancheepuram Section of NH-132B, Semmampadi to Chetpet Section of NH-179D and Polur to Tiruvannamalai Section of NH-38.
The corridor essentially involves an eight-lane highway, connecting the two cities via Krishnagiri, Tiruvannamalai and Kancheepuram.
Farmers of Poolavari, Nilavarapatti, Naazhikkalpatti, Kuppanur and Achankuttapatti villages have already expressed concern with locals from the last village even reportedly blocking Revenue Department officials from surveying the land that had to be acquired.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K. Palaniswami stated in the Assembly that the state government had fought for this project and claimed that only 41 acres of forest land would be acquired. He also added that of the 1,900 hectares of land being acquired, 400 hectares belong to the government. He assured that the project would take the form of a tunnel when it passes through forest areas.
Piyush Manush was earlier arrested in July 2016 for trying to stop work on a bridge at Muluvadi gate in Salem. He was detained under non-bailable sections for many days.