Hours after veteran journalist and editor Nakkheeran Gopal was arrested by the Chennai police for allegedly defaming Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit, politicians and activists have slammed the charges against him.
On Tuesday, Gopal was arrested at the Chennai airport, when he was on his way to an event in Pune. The arrest is reportedly in connection with the September 26 issue of the Nakkheeran magazine. The cover story of the issue features images of Governor Banwarilal Purohit and Nirmala Devi, an assistant professor of the Devanga Arts College in Virudhunagar district, who was arrested after four students complained of a cash-for-sex scandal.
Gopal was booked under under Section 124 of the IPC, that pertains to assaulting the President or Governor with intent to compel or restrain exercise of any lawful power.
Soon after the arrest, many questioned why the police chose to arrest him when the Governor could have simply filed for defamation proceedings against the editor in a court of law.
Speaking to TNM, DMK MP Kanimozhi slammed the Tamil Nadu government and said that Gopal’s arrest points to the selective application of law.
The MP said, “We know why the Tamil Nadu government is doing this. I’m impressed that the government is acting this fast when nothing has moved in S Ve Shekher’s case or in H Raja’s case. This is entirely undemocratic and an attempt to muzzle freedom of the press and freedom of expression. It is condemnable. We know at whose behest the Tamil Nadu government has been acting. Anyone critical of the Central government or state government is thrown behind bars, even if it means disregarding law and due process.”
Kanimozhi also points out that Nakkheeran, a magazine known for its anti-Hindutva stance, has been targeted in an effort to quell dissent in the state.
The article in the biweekly questions why the Governor was not been made part of the inquiry when Nirmala Devi is heard using his name in a telephonic conversation with the students.
The article is titled, “I met the Governor four times: danger to Nirmala Devi who has given a shocking testimony.”
Speaking to TNM, Gopal's lawyer Arogyam alleged that he was stopped outside the Chintadripet police station where Gopal has been detained.
"We are not sure based on which article they have taken action. It is an infringement on his freedom of speech,” he said.
Calling for the immediate release of the journalist, DMK President and Leader of the Opposition MK Stalin tweeted that the arrest was a threat issued by the 'fascist' BJP at the Centre and the 'puppet' AIADMK government in the state.
Speaking to TNM, lawyer and General Secretary of the VCK, D Ravikumar opines that Section 124 is not applicable in Gopal’s case.
“Section 124 is special a provision for Governors and President of India. It is against any physical attack. It is not meant for criticism. Here in this case, Nakkheeran has published an article. It will not hold water. If the Governor feels it is defamatory, he can file a defamation case. In fact, anyone can. Using Section 124 is not correct,” he said.
Actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan's Makkal Needhi Maiam also condemned Gopal's arrest on ‘frivolous grounds’ stating, "a modified version of Colonial laws aimed at silencing dissent is being used by the present govt to curtail citizen's rights. Freedom of media is cardinal to the protection of the true spirit of democracy."