Mahesh, Ms. Jessy, Mr. Balu and Mr. Thanjai Thamilan
HRDA has issued an urgent appeal to the National Human Rights Commission of India on January 20 regarding the arrest of human rights defenders Ms. Mahesh, Ms. Jessy, Mr. Balu and Mr. Thanjai Thamilan. Ms. Mahesh is the coordinator of Makkal Mandram, which works for the minorities and marginalised in the state of Tamil Nadu. Ms. Jessy, Mr. Balu and Mr. Thanjai Thamilan are also associated with Makkal Mandram.
On December 20, 2017, Ms. Mahesh proceeded towards the Kanchipuram Railway Station along with 20 others on receiving information that the portrait of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar was removed from the Kanchipuram Railway Station. They discovered that the portrait of Dr. Ambedkar was removed and found it in the dust bin. Dr. Ambedkar’s portrait was replaced by hand-drawn pictures of the religious-head of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham.
Ms. Mahesh and others present at the site complained about the incident to the Station Manager Mr. E.M. Srinivasalu of the Kanchipuram Railway Station. Ms. Mahesh and others filed a complaint against the station manager at Kanchipuram Taluk Police Station on December 21, 2017.
A complaint was also filed at the office of the Deputy Superintendent of Police, Kanchipuram on December 22, 2017. As there was no action or investigation undertaken by the police on both the complaints, on December 26, 2017, Ms. Mahesh and others met the Superintendent of Police, Kanchipuram, who asked them to complain to the District Collector. On the same day, they met the District Collector and submitted a complaint.
While they were in the campus of the Kanchipuram District Collectorate, a team of police personnel lead by the Inspector of Kanchipuram Taluk Police Station arrested Ms. Mahesh, Ms. Jessy, Mr. Balu and Mr. Thanjai Thamilan. They were detained in a private hall for more than 5 hours. Sub-Inspector Dharmalingam from Kanchipuram Taluk Police Station intimidated and threatened them. He told them to accept that they were the ones who had damaged the photos of the religious head of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham at the Kanchipuram Railway Station. They were produced before the Magistrate on Thirukalugundram in Kanchipuram and sent to judicial custody.
They have been falsely booked under Sections 147 (rioting), 447 (criminal trespass), 295 (intent to insult religion), 295A (hurting religious feelings), 153A (carrying arms), 353 (deterring public servant in discharge of duty) of the Indian Penal Code at Kanchipuram Taluk Police Station.