SALEM: Despite vocal opposition, 23-year-old student Valarmathi, who was remanded for distributing pamphlets to students and urging them to support the Neduvasal protests, was shifted to Coimbatore Central prison from Salem Women’s Prison and detained under the Goondas Act on Monday.
The Salem City (North) Assistant Commissioner Ramasamy and Deputy Commissioner (Law and Order) G Subbulakshmi recommended city Police Commissioner Sanjay Kumar to invoke the Goondas Act against Valarmathi. Acting on the recommendation, the Commissioner issued the order on Monday. The order copy was served to the accused at Coimbatore Central Prison, where she is lodged.
Acting on a tip-off, the city police arrested two women, including Valarmathi, a first-year MA (mass communication and journalism) student from Periyar University on July 12, while they were distributing pamphlets to Government Women’s College students at Gorimedu, seeking support for the protest against the Neduvasal hydrocarbon project.
Investigations revealed that Valarmathi was an activist who frequently organised student protests and participated in various agitations, including the Neduvasal and Kathiramangalam protests. Six cases were pending against the accused, and moreover, in April this year, she was arrested in Karur along with her friends, while they were headed towards Neduvasal by train, and spent over a month in prison.
The police registered cases against the duo and searched Jayanthi’s house, the second accused (and mother of Valarmathi’s friend Swathi), where Valarmathi was staying for the past few days. They seized stacks of the pamphlets from her house. Later, both were produced before fourth judicial magistrate Lingam at his residence. The magistrate issued an order to remand Valarmathi and granted bail to Jayanthi as the evidence against her was insufficient.
Meanwhile, several political leaders condemned Valarmathi’s arrest and demanded the police to withdraw the case. Tamil Nadu Makkal Urimai Katchi (TMUK) State president Poomozhi said that detaining a student under the Goondas Act was unacceptable. “She was making the student community aware of the Neduvasal agitation. This is her freedom guaranteed under the Article 19 (1) (a) of the Indian Constitution. Distributing pamphlet is not an offence in this country. However, the police are trying to portray the girl as a Maoist and a terrorist,” he added.
“The police registered a case against her under Section 7 (1) (a) of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1932. This section is applicable only on individuals or groups conspiring against government. If this is true, why are the State police not acting against MLAs, MPs and political leaders such as M K Stalin, Vaiko and Seeman under Criminal Law Amendment Act, who are in support of the Neduvasal protests. The police are suppressing the voices of people. The police know this case would not stand in court. Justice will prevail,” the Tamil Nadu Makkal Urimai Katchi leader added.
Police sources told Express that the accused regularly organised student protests against the government. “Based on the inputs from the Q branch, we monitored her. On April 15 this year, she was arrested along with some students headed towards Neduvasal in train at Kulithalai in Karur district. We suspect she has links with leftist extremist groups,” they added.When contacted, city police Commissioner Sanjay Kumar was not available for comments.
As per the rule, women accused arrested for offences are lodged at the Salem women sub-jail. However, if a woman is to be detained under the Goondas Act, she should be sent to a Central Prison where officials equivalent to the Superintendent’s rank monitor the prisoners. Hence, women accused from Dharmapuri, Krishnagiri, Namakkal and Salem districts are shifted to Coimbatore or Vellore Central Prison before they are served the Goondas Act order.