Sunday, November 1, 2015

‘Democracy strangled’: Tamil parties condemn folk singer’s arrest

Even as revolutionary folk singer S Kovan was on Saturday lodged in Puzhal central jail on judicial remand, political parties condemned the government for slapping sedition charges against him for speaking out against ill effects of liquor. He has been remanded in judicial custody for 15 days.

In fact, the government’s action has achieved just the opposite — MDMK leader Vaiko dared the government at a public meeting to book him for sedition and he sang out the offending song for which Kovan was arrested. The supporters of the folk singer declared that they too would launch similar protests.

Kovan’s arrest has given a fresh momentum to the anti-liquor campaign that came into sharp focus after one of its campaigners — Gandhian Sasi Perumal — died while protesting from atop a cellphone tower in a village near Madurai on July 31. But for now, the Opposition has condemned the arrest and sedition charges against Kovan, a left leaning folk singer and theatre artist waging a war against the ill-effects of spread of liquor and was fighting for the closure of TASMAC liquor shops owned by the government.

He had composed, sung and acted in two videos of the songs — “Shutdown TASMAC” and “The lady who served liquor” — which were released in, a newszine. The videos went viral on social media. In one song, a man sporting a mask of Jayalalithaa and wearing a green saree is shown pouring liquor to addicts. There are also caricatures of Jayalalithaa seemingly wallowing in money and one of her ministers handing over a bottle of liquor.

Vaiko took the lead on Saturday by singing the offending songs at a public meeting in Tiruchirappalli and later dared the government to arrest him on the same charges. DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi and his son MK Stalin sought the immediate release of the jailed singer, describing it as “strangulation of democracy”. Stalin said, “Seeing the manner in which this government crushed human rights, I fear that there is a dangerous situation prevailing in the state.”

PMK supremo S Ramadoss condemned Kovan’s arrest but said the wordings in his songs were tasteless and he could not support them. State BJP president Tamilisai Soundarajan said, “Instead of arresting liquor habit among people that was destroying their lives, it is sad that the government has arrested the singer, which is condemnable.”

On similar lines, Abhirr VP, Campaigner at Amnesty International India, said, “It is absurd for the Tamil Nadu government to arrest someone essentially for making fun of it. By arresting Kovan for sedition, the state government is sending the message that any criticism of the chief minister and government policies will not be tolerated.”