It was during the 42 days that he spent at Tiruchy Central jail for protesting at Kathirmangalam, that the chief coordinator of the Anti-Methane Project Movement, T Jayaraman wrote his book against river-interlinking. Only 100 copies have even been printed of this book which is merely 48 pages long. But the words it carries has spooked the government so much that it felt the need to invoke the draconian sedition law against the activist.
Out on bail, following his imprisonment for participation in the protests against ONGC at Kathiramangalam in Thanjavur district, Jayaraman has hardly had time to settle into a daily routine before this latest case against him.
On October 22, he launched his book titled 'Nadhigal Inaippum Aarugalai Pidingi Virkkum India' (Interlinking of rivers and India that snatches and sells rivers). Following this, a case has been booked against him under section 153 B (1)(b) of The Indian Penal Code for speaking against sovereignty and national integration.
"How is this a democracy if I am not allowed to express my thoughts? Are we not allowed to write against government schemes anymore?" asks the activist. "The Centre can't take criticism and the state has forgotten its people and is pandering to pressure from the BJP government," he adds.
After years of consideration, the central government has hedged it bets on an $87 billion scheme to connect some of the country’s biggest rivers. Media reports in September suggested that Prime Minister Narendra Modi believed this would end deadly floods and droughts.
"My book argues that this ambitious project will not work and is merely deception on the part of the government to take away water bodies from the people and allow corporates to control them," says Jayaraman. "A project of this magnitude will involve some of the biggest multinational companies and once it is done, do you think they will give us free access to water?" he asks.
The activist claims the interlinking of rivers is mainly aimed at improving shipping routes and in transporting oil, natural gas and other hydrocarbons used as fuel.
According to reports, the Centre's plan entails linking nearly 60 rivers, including the Ganges. The government reportedly believes this will cut farmers’ dependence on monsoon rains by bringing millions of hectares of cultivatable land under irrigation.
"Environmentalists have said time and again that this entire idea is absurd. Not only will millions of people get displaced but large amounts of land will get submerged," says Jayaraman. "By the time this project is over, the cost of it will be 50 lakh crores and where is this money going to come from?" he asks.
The activist alleges that 'spiritual gurus' such as the Isha Foundation's Jaggi Vasudev have been used by the government to create an illusion of people's support. "What else can explain the missed call campaign to save rivers?" asks Jayaraman. "But just as the government has support, I too have backing from environmentalists and human right groups who will help fight this sedition case successfully," he says confidently.