Vol. XLIII No. 14 April 07, 2019
TAMIL NADU: Booklet on Rafale Seized: Alert Media Humbles EC

V B Ganesan

TAMIL Nadu police, last week, denied permission for the release of booklets on Rafale scam and other issues exposing the BJP government and seized copies of the booklets, causing the ire of the general public, progressive writers and journalists.

As part of the election campaign for Secular Progressive Front in Tamil Nadu, Bharathi Puthakalayam, a Chennai-based publisher, brought out booklets exposing the Modi government, one of which was a 48-page booklet in Tamil titled ‘Rafale: The Scam That Shook the Nation’, which explains the secret deal enacted by Modi, in a lucid manner.

Eminent journalist N Ram had agreed to release the booklet and Lt Colonel (Rtd) CR Sundar, film director Raju Murugan and writer Jayarani were invited to receive copies of the booklet at the book release function planned on April 2. However, the local police persuaded the function hall owners not to lend their premises for the function, with a motive to stop the event.

Upon failing to secure a proper venue for the book release function, the publishers decided to conduct the programme within their premises and accordingly, informed every interested person about the change of venue through social media.

Following this news in the social media, an election flying squad No. 1, under Chennai Central Parliamentary constituency, along with a large posse of police force swooped upon the showroom and informed the organisers in writing that, since their proposed function is against the prevailing model code of conduct, permission is being denied for the function. When K Nagarajan, general manager, Bharathi Puthakalayam, argued with the officials, they said that the release of politically oriented booklets is banned in view of the model code of conduct and seized about 150 copies kept in the showroom for the use during the release function.

The poll officials also told the organisers that they will issue receipt for the seized books in the evening and the police will issue a summon for conducting a programme without obtaining proper permission from them. The police asked them to visit their offices to collect the receipt and the summon respectively.

The organisers were contemplating to move the Madras High Court for remedial measures against the action of the poll officials. K Balakrishnan, secretary, Tamil Nadu state committee of CPI(M), condemned the actions of the poll officials and demanded restoration of the rights of the publishers. Similar appeals were made by many mass organisations in the state.

Meanwhile the news of the seizure spread around social media like wildfire and N Ram outrightly condemned the action of the officials as undemocratic and demanded remedial action.

When the news channels flashed this news of undemocratic action upon the publishers, the chief electoral officer Satyabrata Sahoo intervened on the issue through twitter and stated that the Election Commission of India has not given any direction for such an action and the concerning authority has been asked to file a report on the issue immediately.

He also informed N Ram that he is issuing instructions to the concerned officials to return the seized booklets and the election authority has no objection to conduct the book release function as planned. Accordingly, the police officials returned the seized books to the showroom and the book release function began in right earnest.

Speaking at the book release event, N Ram termed the attack as arbitrary, illegal and undemocratic. The flying squad personnel involved had the meeting cancelled and tried to frighten them. He also speculated there may be some pressure from political elements. It is proved that the machinery has failed to curb such an act.

Satyabrata Sahoo has directed the district election officer, Chennai, to file a report on the issue immediately. PK Rajan, editor of Bharathi Puthakalayam, said that the content of the book is already in the public domain and it is ridiculous to seize the books on the ground of violation of model code of conduct.

More than 8,000 copies were sold on the release day itself and the publishers planned to bring out a second edition immediately. On the next day, the ECI relieved all the poll and police officials connected with this incident from poll duties with immediate effect.