Coimbatore: Activists of the Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam (PDK), along with a few advocates and law college students, raised slogans and burnt copies of The Hindu on Tuesday criticising an article on the Sri Lankan Tamils issue that appeared on the editorial page of the newspaper. Some students tried to enter the newspaper office, and a stone was hurled at the building.
When a group of 16 lawyers marched towards the newspaper office, it was prevented by the police. The demonstrators were demanding that The Hindu withdraw the article and tender an apology. Even as the police were trying to remove them, they burnt copies of the newspaper.
The Race Course police registered a case against them under Sections 143 (Unlawful Assembly) and 285 (negligent conduct with regard to fire or combustible matter) of the Indian Penal Code.
Within 20 minutes, another group of 10 persons, most of them Coimbatore Law College students (including PDK members), came towards The Hindu office raising slogans. A couple of persons sneaked through the police cordon and tried to gain entry into the office by scaling the iron gate. They tried to force their way past the employees and the security staff. One of them threw a stone.
The police registered a case against this group under Sections 147 (unlawful assembly), 285, 447 (criminal trespass), 336 (act endangering life or personal safety of others) and 506 (i) (criminal intimidation) of the IPC. All of them were later released on bail.
The Indian Journalists Union condemned the incident. Its national president Suresh Akhuri and general secretary K. Srinivas Reddy called it an assault on the freedom of the press.
Coimbatore Press Club general secretary K.K. Venkatesan condemned the “undemocratic forms of agitation” and the attempts to attack the newspaper office. In case of any “unpalatable” opinion on any issue in a newspaper, objections should be voiced only through democratic forms of protest, he said.
Chennai Press Club joint secretary Bharati Tamizhan described the incident as a challenge to the freedom of the press.