The Chennai police detained eight persons, including five young women, who were part of a platform called ‘Citizens Against CAA Group’, for drawing kolams (rangoli) to voice their protest against the CAA and NRC on Sunday morning in Besant Nagar. Cases were registered against them and they were released later. Among those detained were three lawyers who sought to defend those confined in a hall by the police.
Political party leaders, including DMK president M K Stalin, MDMK leader Vaiko and Manithaneya Makkal Katchi leader M H Jawahirullah criticised the police action, while Minister for Tamil Culture Ma Foi K Pandiarajan defended their detention.
Also read: Stalin, Vaiko condemn detention of women
Police said the protesters had informed them that they wanted to draw kolams with anti-CAA/NRC/NPR messages near the Besant Nagar bus terminus between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. But the police had not granted them permission.
According to Gayathri, one of those detained, the protesters assembled in Besant Nagar around 7.30 a.m. and were attempting to draw kolam when the police asked them to leave the place. “We then went to different streets and requested the house owners to give us permission to put kolams . Some residents opposed and we did not draw it in front of their houses,” she said.
However, when they were drawing the kolams , the police picked them up and detained them in a hall.
A senior police officer said, “We just asked them to leave, when they were drawing kolam on the main road. But they started drawing kolams, with anti-CAA slogans, in front of people’s houses to which many opposed. We have statements from two such residents.”
A member of the Citizens Against CAA said that it is shocking they were picked up for drawing kolams . “Even during Jallikattu protests in January 2017 we expressed our protest through kolams . It is not clear why this is wrong,” she said.
While four young women and a youth were initially detained, later police detained three lawyers who went to meet them.
The police registered cases under Sections 143 (punishment for unlawful assembly) and 188 (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) of the IPC against them.
Reacting to the incident, Mr. Stalin tweeted, “This is a clear example that the authoritarianism of the despicable AIADMK is increasing day by day.” He said the detention of the women was against their right to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under the fundamental rights of the Constitution. He demanded that the case registered against them be withdrawn.
Mr. Vaiko said that if the AIADMK government thought that it could suppress the anger of the people through police action, it would learn a lesson from history. He said students and youth had come to the streets to oppose the CAA and the protests were widespread across the nation.
However, Minister Pandiarajan defended the police action saying the women and men were not detained for drawing ‘ kolams ’ but because the messages in it were “disorderly” ( alangkolam ).