On July 8, 2016, activist Piyush Manush chained himself to the road-roller to protest against the construction of Mulvadi over-bridge in Salem. He was arrested immediately by the police. Days later, a Salem court went on to reject his bail application.
Ten days after his arrest, activists allege that he was physically and verbally abused inside Salem Central Prison. They claim that the identity of the people who assaulted him is not known.
They also allege that he has been kept in solitary confinement. Mayan, Piyush’s advocate said that he was beaten up for 30 minutes before he was sent to solitary confinement.
Having launched the “Stand with Piyush” campaign days ago, activists from different organisations came together in Chennai on Monday to condemn his inhumane treatment. “Piyush was physically and verbally assaulted. Today it has happened to him, tomorrow it might happen to us,” said Sunderrajan, an activist at Poovulagin Nanbargal.
Another activist, Madhumita Datta said, “This is a danger for other activists and the state is trying to say that if you do something against us, this is what is going to happen to you.”
They believe he was targeted for his previous work against the government. “Piyush was carrying out a peaceful protest against the state for building a railway over-bridge without compensating the people. He was saying that the people should be compensated. Three people were arrested, two were granted bail. It is pure vengeance by the state and the police for his efforts of conserving lakes and the environment,” said Sunderrajan.
Piyush Manush has worked towards reviving various water bodies in Salem like Mookaneri, Ammapettai Wri Kundukkal Eri, Pallapatthi and many more. He also legally challenged bauxite mining by the Vedanta group. He has also been part of campaigns supporting farmers and local residents fight against polluting industries.
There have been various police cases filed against Piyush in different police stations in Salem since 2006 including a case of sedition. The activists want him to be released and also want a judicial inquiry into what happened inside the jail.
Activists have also written to the state and National Human Rights Commission. Selva Ganapathy of Aid India said the arrest “sends out a wrong message to the public that anyone who questions the government or activities of the government, this is what happens to them.”
Piyush’s bail petition will come up for hearing on Tuesday at a Sessions court in Salem.