Armed with a purported letter from an election officer, a group of policemen barged into a Chennai-based publishing firm Tuesday morning and seized copies of a Tamil book on alleged irregularities in the Rafale deal hours before its release, citing the Model Code of Conduct (MCC).
As the EC action drew criticism, Tamil Nadu Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Satyabrata Sahoo issued a statement in the evening claiming ignorance about the incident and said he would seek an immediate report from the officials concerned. Denying the role of the EC or the CEO’s office, he said the seizure might have been done by a junior-level officer.
The book — titled ‘Naatai Ulukkum Rafale Bera Oozhal’ (The Rafale scam that’s rocking the country) — was to be released Tuesday at the publishing firm’s small office. The EC action meant the contents of the book surfaced on the Internet before its release with hundreds of Tamil posts on social media summarising it. Digital copies were also shared on social media within hours as news of the incident spread.
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K Nagarajan of the publishing firm Bharathi Puthakalayam said that copies of the book were seized by “a police team headed by an Inspector and some 15 officers”. “They gave a written letter stopping the release of the book. We had 150 copies of the book for the release event and they took all of them… They said they were from the EC. But they haven’t given an acknowledgement letter of seized items, which is delaying our plan to move an urgent petition in court,” said Nagarajan.
Admitting that such a seizure had no legal validity, CEO Sahoo told The Indian Express, “When I inquired, I was told that a zonal officer received a tip-off about the distribution of some books without permission. This might have been done by officers who are tasked to ensure the MCC guidelines.”
“Regarding the seizure of books, neither the ECI nor the CEO office had given any instructions. I have directed DEO, Chennai to look into it and give his report immediately,” he said.
The book largely contains translations of news and investigative reports that are already in the public domain. The author, S Vijayan, is an employee at a Chennai-based IT firm who has penned over 40 such books, which are mostly in the style of pamphlets giving a comprehensive picture about several issues to Tamil readers.
Nagarajan said, “We have published over 1,500 books in the last 15 years across all disciplines, including literature, non-fiction and children’s literature. The author of the book is also a person who has penned several such books in the past.”
K Chandru, former judge of the Madras High Court, said the EC has again proved that they are a B-team of the BJP.
“Law and order are under the control of the police force. The book was nothing but a compilation of already published English materials. When the Supreme Court itself made it clear that they wouldn’t mind looking into allegations on the Rafale deal irrespective of the nature of evidence, it is the ruling dispensation in the state that is also behind such slavish acts for BJP at the Centre,” he said.
“The EC action has now helped make the book go viral with thousands of copies being shared online. Otherwise, it would have been a small event of 50 or 100 people at the publisher’s office.”