A group of nearly 100 people, consisting of writers and journalists and publishers, gathered outside Chennai Book Fair being held at YMCA grounds in Nandanam on Tuesday afternoon, their mouths masked with a piece of black cloth, symbolising the muzzling of free speech. The protesters had gathered to express their anger against the recent arrest of Chennai-based senior journalist V Anbazhagan.
The protestors had demanded the immediate withdrawal of the complaint filed by Book Sellers and Publishers Association (BAPASI), the organizer of the book fair, on Anbazhagan. The organisers alleged Anbazhagan attacked them when the journalist was told to vacate his bookstall. Anbazhagan, who had showcased his book based on RTI replies that highlighted alleged corruption by members of the ruling AIADMK, was asked to vacate his stall on Saturday. BAPASI officials had told him that he was not allowed to display the book as it was against the government.
He was picked by the police and taken to the Saidapet Magistrate Court on Sunday based on a complaint filed by BAPASI. The protestors had also asked the BAPASI to give Anbazhagan back his stall.
Writer Kavin Malar, who was among the protesters, told TNM that BAPASI’s President has assured to have their demands reviewed by their committee. “RS Shanmugam, its leader, accepted our petition at first with a sarcastic remark. This angered us and we demanded his apology. Shanmugam returned to us later and without apologising directly assured to review our demands with their committee.”
The protesters were present outside the Book Fair grounds for about an hour following which they dispersed.
Journalist V Anbazhagan was arrested by the city police at 5 am on Sunday morning after he displayed a book on the government's alleged corrupt activities at a book fair on Saturday. The police have taken serious cognisance of the alleged crime and booked Anbazhagan under non-bailable sections. He has been booked under sections 341 (Wrongful restraint), 294(b) (sings, recites or utters any obscene song, ballad or words, in or near any public place) and 506 (2)(Punishment for criminal intimidation of the Indian Penal Code).
The Chennai book fair, where the publication was displayed, is being organised by the Book Sellers and Publishers Association (BAPASI) at the YMCA ground in Nandanam. It is a 13 day-long event and hosts around 750 stalls.