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Dalit activist Durai Guna held for posters ‘defaming’ Tamil Nadu dist authorities

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.

Written by Arun Janardhanan | Chennai | Published: September 5, 2019 2:53:46 am
Durai Guna

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.”

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