The Tamil Nadu government dropped charges under the Goondas Act on techie-turned-farmer Arul Arumugam on Friday, January 5. Arul was among the seven farmers who were arrested and booked under the Goondas Act on November 4, 2023, based on a First Information Report (FIR) filed in August for protesting the land acquisition for the State Industries Promotion Corporation of Tamil Nadu (SIPCOT) in Cheyyar, Tiruvannamalai. While the Goondas Act charges against the other six farmers were revoked on November 20 by Chief Minister MK Stalin, the government refused to revoke charges against Arul stating that he was “instigating” farmers around Melma and Cheyyar to protest.
According to reports, the case was heard on Thursday, January 4, at the Madras High Court. The court said that the state government is reconsidering its decision of not dropping Goondas Act charges against Arul and anorder was passed on the same day.
Arul, however, will remain under judicial custody as the Cheyyar court had rejected his bail plea in a case of protesting against the eight-lane expressway in July last year. Sources close to Arul told TNM that they have moved to Tiruvannamalai district court seeking bail.
Farmers from Cheyyar, Melma, and neighbouring villages have been holding peaceful sit-in protests since August 2023 on their patta land, opposing the acquisition of 3,000 acres. A case was registered against 33 people including those who protested the detention of the farmers who were walking to the Sub-Collector’s office in Cheyyar to file a complaint against the land acquisition. Among the 33 persons, 20 were arrested on November 4 and seven were charged under the Goondas Act.
Activists, including Nityanand Jayaraman of the Chennai Solidarity Group, Jayaram Venkatesan from Arappor Iyakkam, G Sundarrajan from Poovulagin Nanbargal, and Aruna Roy from the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, had condemned the arrests and criticised the move as an attempt to stifle the free speech of farmers and crush criticism against state action.
Several protests were also held by activists and Tamil Nadu Anaithu Vivasaya Sangangalin Poratta Kuzhu (All Farmer Union’s protesting group) in November and December, condemning the state for arresting and charging farmers with the Goondas Act.