Six members of the Makkal Adhikaram organisation have been booked under the National Security Act, ten days after they were arrested over the anti-Sterlite protests in Thoothukudi.
Police allege that this move comes following their violent behaviour during the protest but the organisation alleges that the police has no proof to make such a charge.
Kaleel Rahman, Mohammed Younis, Mohammed Ishraf, Velmurugan, Saravanan and Sottaiyan of the Makkal Adhigaram group were arrested by the police and lodged in Palayamkottai central prison.
Makkal Adhikaram is a left wing Tamil Outfit which has been part of multiple protests over the Cauvery dispute, TASMAC and Sterlite.
The sections initially used against them were similar to the FIR filed against unknown persons who allegedly vandalised the Sterlite quarters and the Collectorate.
The accused were initially booked under Sections 147 (rioting), 148 (Rioting, armed with deadly weapon), 188 (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), 353 (Assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), 436 (Mischief by fire or explosive substance ), 506 (II) (Criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal code and sections 3,4 of the Tamil Nadu Public Property (Prevention of Damages and Loss) Act (TNPPDL). On Sunday however they were booked under the National Security Act.
"They have been involved in many cases of violence and were booked at 6 pm on Sunday under provisions of NSA," confirms Thoothukudi SP Murali Ramba.
But when asked why they the NSA was evoked, he did not respond. The orders reportedly came from the Tamil Nadu Home Secretary Dr Niranjan Mardi, based on recommendations made by the district Superintendent of Police and district Collector.
According to Makkal Adhigaram, the accused have been charged with arson in the Sterlite quarters as well as the Collectorate.
"How is it even possible for them to be in both places at once? Ask them to show evidence of acts of arson or even stone pelting," says Marudhu, spokesperson for Makkal Adhigaram.
The NSA empowers the Central government and State governments to detain a person to prevent people from acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of India, the relations of India with foreign countries, the maintenance of public order, or the maintenance of supplies and services essential to the community.
"So if protesting against Sterlite jeopardises national security, does it mean that the company is now the nation? And if it is about public order, they were already in jail, what can they do? Why invoke NSA now? We have been targeted because we have been protesting against the state over prohibition, sand mining and are generally perceived as anti-BJP," he alleges.
The May 22 violence in Thoothukudi continues to be a matter of controversy in the state, with protesters alleging that the police is taking the side of Sterlite and the government claiming that those involved in the agitations were anti-social elements.