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22 April, 2008

Police interrupt Long March seeking justice for STF victims

Not surprisingly, the Long March from Satyamangalam to Chennai seeking justice for victims of Special Task Force atrocities has not attracted much attention.

From a communication sent by Henri Tiphagne, Executive Director, People’s Watch, I gather that the police intervened to prevent the march soon after it began on April 20. They arrested the protesters but released them by evening.

Tiphagne writes:
On the evening of the 20th at 5.45 p.m., the police released the mass protesters. Immediately after release, the people moved to Anthiyur to participate in a public meeting. The public meeting was a very successful forum with an audience of over 1000 people. Pa Pa Mohan, a senior advocate and civil rights activist, explained in detail the entire struggle that has been taken forward for the past twelve years now.

Chinnaponnu, one of the marchers, emotionally shared how her husband was taken forcibly by the Special Task Force and was killed mercilessly and how she was kept in illegal custody for over a year and was raped in police custody. After experiencing untold misery and humiliation she married again just to prevent social ridicule. Her testimony was a powerful voice reflecting the experience of several other victims.
Henri Tiphagne, in his speech, said, “This protest march is not against the Government of Tamil Nadu but only to ensure justice for the victims. Paying compensation for a minor section of the victims as per the directions of the National Human Rights Commission does not amount to justice. This Long March is only to ensure that all those affected are ensured the justice they deserve. We demand that goodwill prevails and that permission for this Long March for Justice be granted permission”.

It was decided by the Joint Committee (comprising of political parties such as Communist Party of India (CPI), Dalit Panthers of India (DPI), Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), Periyar Dravida Kalazhagam, Tamilnadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam (TMMK) and social movements and human rights organizations People’s Watch, Pazhangudin Makkal Sangam, SOCO Trust, Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), SICHREM) that we will continue the Long March everyday and will court arrest in a peaceful manner.

Day 2

The day started with media reports of a clarification given by the Government of Tamil Nadu regarding the issue. The government has said that compensation has already been paid to the victims and it has done its duty.

In the early morning itself, the local police informed the team that they had been given instructions to arrest the team if they started the march. It was planned that the team will court arrest en masse but at the same time, lobbying efforts will take place to ensure that this issue is raised in the Assembly by several political parties to ensure that the wheels of justice are set in motion.

At 9.30 a.m. the protestors were stopped by the police who announced that they were going to arrest them. When asked for the grounds of arrest, the policemen floundered for some time and later came up with a document that was vague and went on to arrest the marchers. Among the 115 arrested, 38 are women and one is a child. The arrested have been lodged in Soudeeswari Amman Wedding Hall in Anthiyur.

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