2 Chennai residents booked for ‘rioting’ because they questioned a civic project

While two Chennai residents were arrested on Sunday, an FIR has been registered against four persons including one who was not in the country.
2 Chennai residents booked for ‘rioting’ because they questioned a civic project
2 Chennai residents booked for ‘rioting’ because they questioned a civic project
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Two Chennai residents including one member of the NGO Chitlapakkam Rising were arrested early on Sunday for seeking details about a civic project in the Chennai locality. In a press conference on Sunday, Lakshmi Krishnakumar, a core committee member of the NGO said that two residents, who had sought details of an ongoing stormwater drain project were arrested for asking for a work order.

She said, “We all went as members of public, stood there and asked for their work detail. The Executive Officer, Assistant Engineer were all present. We asked if the project would be helpful in case of flooding. Just as we were asking them questions about their work order, the Assistant Executive Engineer Manohar snatched the phone of Siva. After he got the phone back and we all went home, we received a call saying that a complaint had been filed on Balachandar, Kumar, Sunil and Siva. Sunil is not even in the country.”

Stating that the two were held at the Chitlapakkam police station overnight on Saturday, Lakshmi asked, “Do we not even have the right to ask questions? We are paying tax. Water is entering our homes. We want to know why. Do we have to keep mum for everything? The government has to answer.”

The two had sought details about a storm water drain project on Sethu Narayanan Street in Chitlapakkam. With the northeast monsoon just around the corner, the residents feared that the pits dug outside their homes would flood.

Speaking at the press conference, Jayaraman Venkatesan of Arappor Iyakkam, a Chennai-based anti-corruption organisation said that the work had been ongoing for over two weeks while the tender was closed only on October 17.

“The tender for the cut and cover drain from Sethunarayanan Street to Ramanan Street closed on October 17. It was uploaded on the website only on October 15. If the tender has just been announced, how is work taking place for 15 days here? Has the tender been ‘fixed’ with the contractor before this? They asked for a work order. But they have been booked under rioting and assault,” he said.

Speaking to the Times of India, Kancheepuram district collector R Ponniah said, “All the procedures are being followed. If they want documents of work order, they should file an RTI application. They cannot keep threatening officials. We have filed a complaint only after several such incidents have taken place. It is true that tenders for a part of the work was completed only recently. But for work being carried out, due procedure has been followed and only on my orders the work had begun. There is no illegality.”

All four have been booked under Indian Penal Code Sections 153(Wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot), 147(Punishment for rioting), 294(b)(sings, recites or utters any obscene song, ballad or words, in or near any public place), 353 (Assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty) and 506(Punishment for criminal intimidation).

In recent months, the state has been witness to a crackdown on dissent with several activists and residents protesting the Salem Chennai Expressway arrested along similar reasons. This includes activist Piyush Manush, student activist Valarmathi and actor-politician Mansoor Ali Khan.

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