In a bizarre move, the Tamil Nadu police arrested S. Kovan, a well-known folk singer on charges of sedition (S. 124-A), for promoting enmity between communities (S. 153-A) and criminal intimidation (S. 505/1) of the IPC. According to news reports, Kovan was picked up at 2.30 a.m. from his house in Trichi on 30th October 2015 for penning allegedly seditious lyrics in two of his songs, Moodu Tasmac Moodu and Ooruku oru Sarayam. Koval was whisked away to Chennai and his lawyer was not allowed to meet him the whole day.
Koval, an activist of Makkal Kalai Ilikiya Kazhagan, the cultural wing of the People’s Art and Literary Association, has always been associated with protest music which has dealt with numerous social and political issues, such as the anti-liquor movement, price rise or the prohibitive costs of education. The success of his music is apparent from the fact that both songs, which were originally uploaded on a Tamil website, have enjoyed immense popularity and are said to have gone ‘viral’ over social media. A top police official reportedly told the media that Koval “provoked” people against the state by uploading videos with ‘highly defamatory’ content against the government, the chief minister as well as the opposition leader. In another report, the police have admitted that they were under pressure to take action against the popularity of the anti-government and anti-ruling class lyrics, ahead of the assembly elections.
The action of the Tamil Nadu police is self-defamatory as it shows the government’s utter lack of credibility in being unable to withstand popular dissent against its patronage of the liquor trade in the state. Not for nothing, one of Koval’s lyrics pertinently points out that ‘Midas’, a distillery company run by the Chief Minister’s aide, Sasikala, is the source of people’s ruin. According to the NCRB data, more than 1500 people died between 2014 and 2015 on account of consumption of spurious liquor.
Pressing charges of sedition against Koval is not only undemocratic but also ridiculous as it once again exposes how our ruling elite have transformed from democratically elected people’s representatives into petrified megalomaniacs who freely use a repressive colonial penal clause, instead of being forthright and engaging with issues of popular dissent. PUDR demands the immediate and unconditional release of Koval and would like to remind the government and the administration that Art. 19 of our Constitution extends the right to freedom of speech, action and thought to all citizens. To counter it by using the sedition clause is an unprincipled act which invites the strongest censure and condemnation.
Megha Bahl, Sharmila Purkayastha
31 October 2015