from Nityanand Jayaraman, Chennai Solidarity Group
As told to me by a source in Tirunelveli:
Koodankulam protestors, and some others who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time on September 10 and subsequent dates, had been picked up by the Police, arrested and remanded to judicial custody in Tirunelveli, Vellore, and Tiruchi jails. Yesterday, they were produced before the Magistrate in Valliyoor. This is the second instance that an extension on their remand has been granted.
The arrested people that were brought to the magistrate’s court from Vellore and Tiruchi were not given food, water or allowed to answer nature’s calls throughout the trip. In the earlier instance, when they were produced before the magistrate, they had been brought in hand-cuffed. The Magistrate had taken a very serious view of this, and reminded the police of the supreme court orders on the matter. Unlike the last visit, the arrested people were allowed to meet their relatives yesterday thanks to the presence of about 6 local lawyers who complained to the Magistrate. The magistrate in turn chastised the police and invited the relatives to meet the arrested people inside the court, and hand over food and clothing.
Two disturbing events arose.
1. Thirumani a.k.a Joseph, aged 29 (as per FIR), s/o Lincoln Nadar, Village Koodankulam is a mentally challenged person. On September 10, 2012, a new Sub-Inspector (name awaited) from the Koodankulam Police Station arrested Thirumani. His arrest was not noticed by anybody. He was produced before the Nanguneri Magistrate, who is the same person that helped the police with the remand of Mugilan. In this case too, the Magistrate (name awaited) remanded the arrested person to judicial custody. When solidarity activists in Tirunelveli found out about it, they applied for bail for the young man and requested that the youngster be sent in for immediate treatment. The matter had come up for hearing on 7 October (Saturday), when the Magistrate directed that Mr. Thirumani should be moved to the Tirunelveli Government Hospital, and sought a medical opinion. Yesterday, the medical opinion confirming Mr. Thirumani’s mental state was presented to the Magistrate. The magistrate questioned the Public Prosecutor in open court as to how the Nanguneri Magistrate had been convinced to remand a visibly mentally challenged person. The magistrate told the lawyers to move a bail application immediately. To move a bail application, the sureties produced (such as property papers etc) need to be certified by the Village Administrative Officer. All 5 VAOs and Tahsildars in Perumanal, Idinthakarai and Koodankulam have been instructed to not issue any certification and have refused to do so since the time that sureties were being readied for the release of Sathish Kumar and Mugilan a few months ago. In this case too, Koodankulam VAO Mr. Suresh flatly refused to issue any certification and directed the applicants to approach the District Collectolr. The Lawyers pointed this out to the Magistrate. Considering the mental state of the arrested person, the Magistrate has issued bail on the basis of patta tax payment receipts of 2010. The bail has now been granted, but only because the Magistrate was willing to accept our case only because Thirumani is mentally challenged. For the other persons, bail applications are likely to be a problem because the VAO is unlikely to certify surety papers.
2. Mr. Udayaselvan, s/o Sudalaimani, aged 25, Koodankulam village, is in no way connected to the ongoing protests. The following narrative is a paraphrased version of his oral testimony to the Valliyoor Magistrate on 9 October, 2012. On September 10, he was returning from having picked up clothes from a tailor shop in Koodankulam town where he had given clothes for stitching for a wedding of his close relative. On his way back, he was stopped by policemen. He told them he had to go home to drop off the clothes. The same policemen who had allowed him were joined by several more by the time he happened back. Despite his protests that he had nothing to do with the protest on the beach, he was picked up by three policemen — Police Constable Pal Pandi, Police Constable Lakshmanan and Sub Inspector Anand Raj. All three policemen were reportedly part of the escort that accompanied DSP Bidari and the ADGP. Udayaselvan was dragged into the thorny bushes, and was beaten up badly. One would slap him on his face, while the other would punch him on his head, and the third would hit him on his legs. This went on until he thankfully lost consciousness. Another person, also arrested on the same day from the same location, confirms that he saw Udayaselvan being dragged by his feet and hands and loaded on to the police vehicle. According to Udayaselvan, the Sub Inspector Anand Raj was particularly vicious. As Udayaselvan was narrating this, his mother who was present in the court fainted.
Mr. Udayaselvan said that he did not narrate these beatings on the first occasion for fear of upsetting his mother and sister. But since then (about 15 days back), he has lost all appetite and the effects of the beatings are seriously affecting his health. According to his mother, he has never appeared so weak. His request for medical attention has been granted, and the Magistrate reportedly ordered him to be relocated to the hospital immediately.
According to the person who narrated all this to me, the presence of a number of lawyers appearing on behalf of the arrested people made a big difference to counter the intimidation of the police and bring in a semblance of fairness to the proceedings.
Further updates from Prof. Samuel Asir Raj, Tirunelveli District –
Udayaselvam aged 25 years s/o Sudalaimani of Koodankulam remanded in Vellore Jail has been subjected to harressment and torture by Police Constables Paulpandi and Latchumanan and Anantharaj constables who were acting as personal bodyguards of th IG Rajesh Das and the DSP.. The sister of Udayaselvam was present to meet him. Udayaselvam was told by the lawyers to request for medical treatment and his sister presented to the magistrate, an appeal for medical treatment for her brother through the lawyers. The magistrate was sympathetic enough to record the appeal and order that the remanded Udayselvam be given medical treatment in the hospital at Vellore.
One of the remanded person from Vairavakinnaru is a daily wage labour and the family has been suffering without food and medical treat for the ill child. The wife had to borrow money to come and meet her husband, but did not have enough to feed her child and herself yesterday. We had provided some rice and dhall earlier but they have been exhausted. So we gave Rs.500/- as immediate relief and plan to send more food materials to Vairavikinnaru.We arew also making arrangements to provide medical treatment for the child next week.Yesterday we sent 5 lawyers to be present in the court at Valliyoor as the remanded persons from Trichy and Vellore were to be produced before the Valliyoor Magistrate for further period of remand. The police has refused to allow the relatives to meet the remanded people. The lawyers complained to the magistrate who then ordered the inspector to allow for meetings to take place.We have decided to make it mandatory to take along with Adv. Ramesh Ganapathy, five to ten lawyers so as to make our presence felt in the court. This tactic worked yesterday as the police were more defensive. Moreover we were able to obtain a favourable order of exemption (till the case is finished) from court appearance for Mrs. Meera Udayakumar. This was possible as the lawyer made an application for exemption of appearance by stating that Mrs. Meera Udaykumar had familial responsibilities of taking care of two old in laws and two young children particularly when she was being harnessed by Congress goons at home and BJP / RSS at the school which she is running with the responsibility of being a principal.