Astonished by the ‘police raaj’ in Tamil Nadu: Yogendra Yadav to TNM
Days after Swaraj India chief Yogendra Yadav was arrested by the Tamil Nadu police over his visit to Salem district to meet farmers affected by the Chennai-Salem eight-lane expressway, the leader has slammed the ‘police raaj’ in the state.
Speaking to TNM on the sidelines of a press conference in Chennai on Monday, Yogendra Yadav expressed shock at what passed for normality in the state.
He said, “I had heard that there is a police raaj in Tamil Nadu. But I treated it like traffic. Everyone believes the traffic in their town is the worst. But when I came here and saw for myself how the police acts, I was taken aback. The suspicion that there is a law and constitution above them has not reached the police here. The manner in which they can issue illegal orders is astonishing. The manner in which people are being harassed is amazing.”
The police department in Tamil Nadu has increasingly come under fire in recent months over the detention and arrests of several activists, protesters and journalists doing their job. The police have also received condemnation from several quarters for slapping far-fetched legal proceedings against those that they have detained or arrested.
Commenting on the government in the state, Yogendra Yadav said, “My own sense is that the political leadership is very nervous about something that they have to hide. In many ways what you have in Tamil Nadu today is a puppet government. This puppet government is being used for serving not public interest, but private interests. I don’t know whose private interest, that is for the people to investigate. Unfortunately, the police force is being used as a private army to support this.”
The leader, who has been lending his support to many farmers’ movements across the country, also recounted from personal experience that the detention he faced in Salem district on Saturday was unprecedented.
“I have been to dozens of states, usually to protest against the government. I have spoken to farmers in all conditions. Except once, I have never been prevented from speaking to people. And that was in Mandsaur when I reached within four days of the police firing and they told us that there was a curfew in place. I have never been stopped anywhere. This – in Tamil Nadu – is extraordinary. And if this is normal, I shudder to think what would happen under abnormal conditions.”
Displaying the ‘detention order’ served to him, he said that it was a post-dated document against conducting public meetings, while he had only set out to visit the homes of farmers. The leader also alleged that the police had manhandled him and snatched away the phone of an aide who was travelling with him.
The Chennai-Salem expressway has caused a stand-off between farmers along the 277.30 km stretch and the state government that seeks to utilise their lands for constructing the highway. Several activists and political leaders have come out in support of farmers and faced arrests.
Yogendra Yadav also demanded all work on the expressway to be stopped until five demands were met: following due procedure, ensuring transparency, conducting consultations with farmers, fostering democratic debate and reinstating a neutral police force.
However, the leader noted that his arrest in the state had brought national attention to the issue and ensured that the spell of fear over the dispute had been breached.