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Disappearance of environmentalist "suggests" police role against anti-Sterlite protestors

Counterview Desk
In a letter to Tamil Nadu chief secretary Girija Vaidyanathan, eminent citizens have expressed serious concern over the mysterious disappearance of environmental and human rights defender S Mugilan of Tamil Nadu, saying, he is "a target of attack by the state apparatus."
An articulate and outspoken activist advocating against sand mining, the dangers of nuclear power and industrial pollution, the letter says, Muligan's "abrupt disappearance and the silence of the Government of Tamil Nadu raise grave concerns about the state of civil liberties and human rights in Tamil Nadu, a state with a civil administration that once prided itself in being a cut above the rest."
The letter has been endorsed, among others, by Justice D Hariparanthaman, (Retd), Madras High Court, Chennai; Yogendra Yadav, President, Swaraj Party; Prashant Bhushan, Supreme Court advocate; MG Devasahayam, IAS (Retd); Fatima, Anti Sterlite People's Movement, Thoothukudi; Kalpana Kannabiran, Council for Social Development, Hyderabad; R. Vaigai, Advocate, Chennai; Henri Tiphagne, People's Watch, Madurai; Maj Gen SG Vombatkere (Retd); Claude Alvares, Goa Foundation; K Kalpana, Academic, Chennai; and Medha Patkar, National Alliance of People's Movements.
Copies of the letter have been sent to Niranjan Mardy, additional chief secretary, home; Vijay Kumar, ADGP (Law & Order); C Sridhar, IGP (North Zone); Dr AK Viswanathan, commissioner, Chennai City Police; and superintendents of police, Kanchipuram and Villupuram, among others.

Text of the letter:

We are writing to you to ensure the safe return of Mugilan, an environmental rights activist who went missing at around midnight on 15 February. His disappearance barely half-a-day after highlighting the alleged role of senior police officers in the killings of 14 persons in a police action against anti-Sterlite protestors in Thoothukudi last May is deeply disturbing.
Mugilan has been an articulate and outspoken activist advocating against sand mining, the dangers of nuclear power and industrial pollution.
His abrupt disappearance and the silence of the Government of Tamil Nadu raise grave concerns about the state of civil liberties and human rights in Tamil Nadu, a state with a civil administration that once prided itself in being a cut above the rest.
We, express our deep concern and anxiety over Mugilan's safety, and urge the Government of Tamil Nadu and the state Police to ensure his safe return to his family.
Background
Mugilan addressed a press meet in Chennai on February 15, 2019 at around 11.30 AM regarding claims by the state that the killing of 14 persons by police firing on May 22, 2018, during an anti-Sterlite protest in Thoothukudi was prompted by arson and rioting by a section of the protestors.
During the press meet he released a report and video titled 'Sterlite: Hidden Truth', which presented publicly available CCTV and TV footage to highlight how the the police acting in collusion with the management of Sterlite Copper orchestrated the violence that was then used as an excuse to fire and kill protestors.
Mugilan also named senior police officers implicating them in the events that led to the violence and killings.
He was last seen by a few of his friends at Egmore Railway Station in Chennai.
This is not the first time that Mugilan has been a target of attack by the State apparatus. He, along with numerous others, have been falsely accused and accused in several cases of sedition for their role in the non-violent civil disobedience struggle against the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant in Tirunelveli.
In 2012 when the protests against the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant was at its peak, he was similarly abducted by the police on his way back from his home town and illegally detained for three days before being remanded to judicial custody in response to civil society pressure.
As we stand on the brink of climate catastrophe, people such as Mugilan who are advocating against environmentally degrading projects should be seen as voices of reason and wisdom, rather than as criminals. We urge the Government of Tamil Nadu to work in all seriousness to locate Mugilan and return him to his family.

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