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Green activist arrested, beaten in custody, NGOs demand release


On 8th July 2016, environmental activist Piyush Sethia and two colleagues were arrested in Salem, Tamil Nadu during protests against the construction of an over-bridge. On 14th July 2016, the Magistrate’s court dismissed Piyush’s bail application while granting conditional bail to the other two activists. Sethia has been kept in solitary confinement since his arrest.

Sabrang

On 8th July 2016, Piyush Sethia and two other members of Salem Citizen’s Forum(SCF) were arrested in Salem, Tamil Nadu. The activists were protesting against the railway authorities for starting the construction work of Mulvadi gate over-bridge in Salem without giving prior notice to the people in the area and without laying an alternate road. The police subsequently arrested Piyush Sethia and the other two activists, Easan Karthik and Muthu. Piyush Sethia was booked under IPC sections 341, 188, 353 and 506(2). However, reports emerge that Sethia after being arrested, was denied bail and beaten inside Salem Central Prison.

On 14th July 2016, the Salem Magistrate’s court dismissed Piyush’s bail application while granting conditional bail to the other two activists. Sethia has been kept in solitary confinement since his arrest. Moreover, his wife and lawyer assert that Sethia is being subjected to physical and mental harassment and isn’t allowed to receive reading material or speak to his wife and other visitors freely.

Furthermore, reports emerge that supporters of Sethia are being intimidated via phone calls to isolate him. Sethia’s lawyer says, “he was beaten for a good half an hour before they sent him to solitary confinement”. Sethia then revealed to his lawyer that he was, “abused by a group of unknown persons numbering nearly 30 inside the prison several times”.

The custodial assault of Piyush Sethia and the brutality of Prison authorities has sparked an outcry amongst Civil Society groups. Several groups including the National Alliance of People’s Movements and the Coalition for Environmental Justice have demanded the immediate release of Piyush Sethia and have pointed out the work which he has done in the past. This includes creating a cooperative forest in Dharmpuri, leading Salem Citizen’s forum to revive water bodies in the area and protecting the natural resources in Salem and the surrounding areas. The Coalition for Environmental Justice have also written a letter to the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, demanding the immediate release and dropping of charges against Piyush Sethia and co-activists. The letter can be found here

SIGN ONLINE PETITION AT CHANGE.ORG

NAPM Press Release:

National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) condemns this complete arbitrary arrest of environmental activist Piyush Sethia, who has been a crusader for several national level issues including Bhopal Gas Survivors, rights of adivasis and founder of Salem Citizen’s Forum. He has worked hard to change the face of the city Salem by organising citizens led efforts to revive lakes, forests, wet lands and so on and is know for his work of promoting alternative handicrafts and creating environmental awareness.

His arrest on completely false charges can only be termed as political vendetta and an action by disgruntled officials who have been irked by several initiates Salem Ciizen’s Forum has taken over years now.

It’s condemnable that he is being tortured in the prison and his bail plea too has been rejected on not tenable grounds, while other two arrested  along with him as has been granted bail.
NAPM is writing to Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu demanding immediate release of Piyush and demands action against the officials who are guilty for not following the law and also for inflicting torture on Piyush.

We stand in solidarity with Salem Citizen Forum, Piyush and his family in their struggle for the rights of the people and against environmental destruction.

In solidarity, Medha Patkar – Narmada Bachao Andolan and the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM); Prafulla Samantara – Lok Shakti Abhiyan & Lingraj Azad – Samajwadi Jan Parishad – Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti, NAPM, Odisha; Dr. Sunilam, Aradhna Bhargava – Kisan Sangharsh Samiti & Meera – Narmada Bachao Andolan, NAPM, MP; Suniti SR, Suhas Kolhekar, Prasad Bagwe – NAPM, Maharashtra; Gabriele Dietrich, Geetha Ramakrishnan – Unorganised Sector Workers Federation, NAPM, TN; C R Neelkandan – NAPM Kerala; P Chennaiah & Ramakrishnam Raju – NAPM Andhra Pradesh, Arundhati Dhuru, Richa Singh, Nandlal Master – NAPM, UP; Sister Celia – Domestic Workers Union & Rukmini V P, Garment Labour Union, NAPM, Karnataka; Vimal Bhai – Matu Jan sangathan & Jabar Singh, NAPM, Uttarakhand; Anand Mazgaonkar, Krishnakant – Paryavaran Suraksh Samiti, NAPM Gujarat; Kamayani Swami, Ashish Ranjan – Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan & Mahendra Yadav – Kosi Navnirman Manch, NAPM Bihar; Faisal Khan, Khudai Khidmatgar, J S Walia, NAPM Haryana; Kailash Meena, NAPM Rajasthan; Amitava Mitra & Avik Saha, NAPM West Bengal; Bhupender Singh Rawat – Jan Sangharsh Vahini & Rajendra Ravi, Madhuresh Kumar and Shabnam Shaikh – NAPM, Delhi

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Environmentalist Shibu K. Nair of Thanal, a Thiruvananthapuram-based not-for-profit, says: “It is amazing to see the changes Sethia built not just in the physical environment of Salem, but the changes he made in the attitude of its citizens. His confidence and passion have motivated people to trust him and get involved.” This area, especially the Kanjamalai hills located around 14km from Salem, is rich in iron ore—a fact that was apparently first noticed by companies in 2008. Sethia and other environmentalists have been opposing the entry of companies and educating locals on the effects of mining. Raja, who belongs to one of the villages clustered in the foothills, was an active member of the Kanjamalai Padagap Iyyakam, a local group that strongly opposed the entry of companies, “We gheraoed the district forest office and submitted multiple RTI petitions,” Raja recalls with a hearty laugh. The multiple protest movements did bear fruit. “The resistance was so strong that every application was withdrawn.

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