Siva was arrested on a complaint filed by a tribal woman.

Arrest of an environmentalist Tribals accuse Isha foundation of flexing its muscleImage: Siva/ Facebook.com
news Environment Tuesday, October 18, 2016 - 17:54

On Monday, a group of women from the tribal village of Pazhangudi in the foothills of Velliangiri, protested at the Collector’s office in Coimbatore. They demanded that the administration should release M Siva, a 32-year-old environmentalist who had been arrested on the basis of a complaint by a woman.

Tribals however alleged that the case was a fabricated one and was filed at the behest of religious trust Isha Foundation. A few days ago, Siva had been leading a movement against organisations that had encroached into the elephant corridor spread on the Western Ghats.

On October 2, a woman named V Maheshwari (38) filed a complaint against Siva with the Alandurai police station in Coimbatore. She claimed that she had given him Rs. 4,000 for getting her a patta or a land deed. When she asked him about the land, he had harassed her, she alleged.

Police arrested Siva on Saturday and filed a case against him under three sections:  IPC, 294 b (using obscene language, gesture), 323 (causing hurt) and 420 (cheating).

Recently, Siva had filed two complaints against Isha foundation accusing them of encroaching into tribal lands in Velliangiri. The tribals allege that Siva’s stance against Isha Foundation was the reason behind the ‘witchhunt’.

“He has been arrested under false charges. What wrong has he done by helping us? We are going to protest till he is released by the police. He never promised to anyone that he would get us land deeds,” said Ponnammal, a tribal woman.

However, Isha foundation staunchly denied the allegations and said they had nothing to do with the case filed against Siva. “What proof do tribals have to show that Isha foundation is behind this case? Anyone can come and say anything, but they need to have proof. We are in no way related to this case,” said Balachander, spokesperson of Isha Foundation.

Chandramohan, an activist with the Arappor Iyakkam alleged that the complainant in the case, Maheswari, was an employee of the Isha Foundation. “Siva's fight for justice was relentless and no matter how many threats came his way he never backed down. Recently he exposed the Isha Foundation for grabbing land and he is now paying the price for that ‘crime’,” he said.

Chandramohan also said that tribal people had come out in large numbers to come out in support for Siva as the media was failing to take up his case.

The tribals also want the police to take action against the religious trust. “Why do people from Isha Foundation roam in our areas continuously? The police should question them also,” said Marugammal.

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