ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846
Stop Convicting People for Singing Protest Songs
In a bizarre move, the Tamil Nadu police arrested S Kovan, a well-known folk singer on charges ofsedition (Section 124-A), for promoting enmity between communities (S 153-A) and criminal inti-midation (S 505/1) of the Indian Penal Code. According to news reports, Kovan was picked up at2.30 am from his house in Trichy on 30 October 2015 for penning allegedly seditious lyrics in two ofhis songs, Moodu Tasmac Moodu and Oorukku Oru Sarayam. Kovan was whisked away to Chennaiand his lawyer was not allowed to meet him the whole day.
Kovan, an activist of Makkal Kalai Ilakkiya Kazhagam, the cultural wing of the Peoples Art andLiterary Association, has always been associated with protest music which has dealt with numeroussocial and political issues, such as the anti-liquor movement, price rise or the prohibitive costs ofeducation. The success of his music is apparent from the fact that both songs, which were originallyuploaded on a Tamil website, have enjoyed immense popularity and are said to have gone viralover social media. A top police official reportedly told the media that Kovan provoked peopleagainst the state by uploading videos with highly defamatory content against the government, theChief Minister as well as the opposition leader. In another report, the police have admitted thatthey were under pressure to take action against the popularity of the anti-government and anti-ruling class lyrics, ahead of the assembly elections.
The action of the Tamil Nadu police is self-defamatory as it shows the governments utter lack ofcredibility in being unable to withstand popular dissent against its patronage of the liquor trade inthe state. Not for nothing, one of Kovans lyrics pertinently points out that Midas, a distillerycompany run by the Chief Ministers aide, Sasikala Natarajan, is the source of peoples ruin.According to the National Crime Records Bureau data, more than 1,500 people died between 2014and 2015 on account of consumption of spurious liquor.
Pressing charges of sedition against Kovan is not only undemocratic but also ridiculous as it onceagain exposes how our ruling elite have transformed from democratically elected peoplesrepresentatives into petrified megalomaniacs who freely use a repressive colonial penal clause,instead of being forthright and engaging with issues of popular dissent. PUDR demands theimmediate and unconditional release of Kovan and would like to remind the government and theadministration that Article 19 of our Constitution extends the right to freedom of speech, action andthought to all citizens. To counter it by using the sedition clause is an unprincipled act whichinvites the strongest censure and condemnation.
Megha Bahl, Sharmila Purkayastha