A Dalit writer and activist, Durai Guna, has been arrested in Tamil Nadu’s Pudukottai district for putting up sarcastic ‘recruitment’ posters — critical of the district administration in a circuitous way — across his native town. The posters are a way to protest against alleged administrative apathy and inaction against encroachment of a waterbody in his village.
The posters appeared as an advertisement and mockingly ‘invited’ candidates for posts ranging from tehsildar to district collector, leaving Revenue officials fuming, according to a senior police officer.
The waterbody concerned — Vettukulam water tank, spread on 3 acres of land — is in Karambakudi village of the district.
The police officer said Guna was arrested late on Tuesday based on an FIR registered under non-bailable charges under IPC Sections 170 (pretending to hold any post as a public servant) and 501 (printing any matter known to be defamatory), among others.
The officer said, “The posters defamed the administration. We received the complaint from a village official, and were told to file a case and arrest him.”
Maintaining that Guna had “motives” to defame the administration when he had proper methods to raise a complaint, District Collector P Uma Maheshwari said, “Now I have decided to book all encroachers (of the waterbody concerned) under Goondas Act.”
The poster — titled “Job Openings, People Needed” — invited honest and efficient candidates for the posts of collector, district revenue officer, tehsildar and village administrative officer in order to revive a waterbody by removing encroachment as per Madras High Court’s order. According to it, qualifications required were “common sense, self-respect and maturity.”
Asked about the arrest on serious charges for what was seemingly a harmless protest criticising the administration, District Collector Maheshwari said, “There were many complaints against him. He was arrested twice for different offences. I am told by the police that there are four FIRs against him and he was let out on bail after arrests on both occasions.”
Stating that Guna never approached her with a petition on the issue, Maheshwari said: “He petitioned the tehsildar. Our officials inspected the land and decided to give two months’ time since they (villagers) had already sown crops for this year.”