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Controversial Tamil folk singer Kovan was arrested from his home in Tamil Nadu’s Trichy city on Friday for singing a song he has composed on the VHP’s recent Ram Rath Yatra, which criticises Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP. Kovan had sung it at an event in Trichy last month to protest the Centre’s failure to form the Cauvery Water Management Board. Senior police officers confirmed the arrest and said the case was registered on the basis of a complaint received on Wednesday from a BJP youth leader in Trichy.
According to the complaint, Kovan’s song amounts to an insult to Modi and the Prime Minister’s office. “He is arrested for criticising the state and Central governments, (and has been booked) under Sections 153 (provocation with intent to cause riot), 503 (criminal intimidation) and 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace),” an officer said. Titled ‘VHP Rath Yatra’, the 4.02-minute video of the song was released soon after the VHP’s Ram Rath Yatra entered Tamil Nadu in late-March. Extremely popular and shared numerous times on social media platforms, the song had more than 2.20 lakh views on YouTube by Friday evening.
In a video that emerged on Friday evening, Kovan, 47, was seen being dragged out of his home. As a group of police personnel tried to take him away, his friends and relatives were seen trying to question the police action. Following heated arguments, the folk singer was seen being put in a police vehicle waiting outside.
In the song, Kovan uses the metaphor of Bharat, who ruled Ayodhya by keeping Lord Ram’s slippers on the throne during his 14-year exile, and accuses the Tamil Nadu government of running a similar “Modi Rajya” in the state. The lyrics also refer to Sita’s rescue in Ramayan and states, “but Cauvery is also a woman, our woman, she has to reach here…” Kovan was earlier arrested under sedition charges in October 2015 for writing two songs for his group Makkal Kalai Ilakkiya Kazhagam, or People’s Art and Literary Association (PALA), a 30-year-old movement for weaker sections of the society. His team mostly performs folk songs and street plays on socio-economic and cultural issues.
On Friday evening, members of PALA said they are yet to receive details of the exact reason that led to Kovan’s arrest. Kovan’s wife wife also takes part in his folk music events. Kovan is is seen as a sympathiser of ultra-Left outfits by Tamil Nadu police. “My movement supports my family – it helped my children’s education,,” Kovan had told The Indian Express a year ago.
The lyrics of ‘VHP Rath Yatra’ call Gujarat another Ram Rajya and reiterate that Ram Rajya is but Modi Rajya. It accuses Gujarat government for having plenty of respect for some industrialists even though large parts of the state lack drinking water or schools.