Five months after he mysteriously disappeared from a railway station in Chennai, prominent environment activist Mugilan was found on Saturday evening at Tirupati railway station in Andhra Pradesh. While the activist’s disappearance had led to state police facing charges of kidnapping him for his anti-government position and agitations, his sudden reappearance with a few Andhra police personnel has triggered speculation that he was in illegal custody of Andhra police.
However, sources close to Mugilan and in the police said Mugilan was not in the custody of Andhra police. “He was taken into custody after he was found on the platform in a disoriented condition. He was raising slogans. He was picked up by railway police. A CB-CID team from Chennai rushed to Tirupathi after receiving the information and took him into custody. He was provided medical care at a government hospital in Vellore en route to Chennai. He is now being questioned by a team of officers in Chennai,” said a police officer.
The officer added that Mugilan was unwell and showed signs of disoriented behaviour. He had also reportedly claimed that he was bitten by a dog a week ago.
The fact that the 55-year-old activist faces over 200 cases and has played a key role in several agitations in Tamil Nadu had triggered suspicions over his disappearance.
On Sunday evening, the CB-CID, which is probing cases against Mugilan, registered his arrest in a case of rape. According to a senior police officer, the arrest was made in a case registered in March on a complaint by a woman from Namakkal who has taken part in many agitations with Mugilan.
On February 15, the day he disappeared, Mugilan had addressed a press meet where he alleged that the Thoothukudi firing in May 2018 was a police conspiracy. Thereafter, he was to take a train from Chennai Egmore station to his home near Madurai. Investigation into a missing complaint filed by his family revealed that Mugilan did not board the Nagercoil Express on February 15 and his mobile phone was untraceable — his phone was last traced to Guduvanchery near Chennai.
Activist groups feared that Mugilan was harmed or killed in a fake encounter because in the press meet before he went missing, he had named senior police officers and accused them of being behind the firing.
The Madras High Court had pulled up the police for failing to trace him.
Activist and lawyer Henry Tiphange, who moved a petition in the high court after Mugilan’s disappearance, informed the state police that Mugilan had been spotted at Tirupati.
Tiphange said Shanmugam, a classmate of Mugilan, spotted him at Tirupati station with Andhra police personnel. “He immediately alerted his family. Hearing the news, I spoke to Tamil Nadu DGP J K Tripathy and senior officers and sought immediate intervention,” he said.
While Tiphange is clueless about the reasons behind Mugilan’s disappearance, he said he was happy that Mugilan is alive.
DGP Tripathy told The Indian Express that they have ruled out reports that Mugilan was in the custody of Andhra police during the period when he was missing. “He was picked up from the station yesterday. We are probing the reason for his disappearance.”