Thursday, June 18, 2009

Dubbed Tigers, Indians in custody

Published Date: 17/6/2009 - (NIE)

G Saravanan

Chennai, June 16: SETHU Kannan, an Indian national, has been languishing in a government-run special camp for Lankan refugees at Poonamallee despite a bail issued by a court in a case against him for allegedly smuggling ball bearings, used in ammunition, for the LTTE.

The 35-year-old has been illegally detained for the last one year. Three others — Bharathi Dasan, Bhoominathan and Sashi Kumar from the coastal Ramanathapuram district and Pudhucherry, also face a similar fate as the Q Branch of the Tamil Nadu police has portrayed them as Sri Lankan refugees and accomplices in the ball bearings smuggling case.

Like his father, Kannan, a resident of Vattamvalsai village near Uchipuli in Ramanathapuram district, used to visit Sri Lanka on business. During one such visit in the late 80s, ethnic conflict in the nation escalated all of a sudden forcing Kannan to return to Tamil Nadu with a group of Tamil refugees.

Upon his arrival, local police at Mandapam detained the whole group, including Kannan, for interrogation and sent them to nearby refugee camps. Though Kannan tried to convince officials that he was an Indian and should be allowed to go home, they shifted him to a Sivakasi refugee camp.

Kannan, meanwhile, managed to contact his family. Camp officials then allowed him to leave the camp to live with his family. However, in March 2007, the Q Branch arrested Kannan from his house for alleged involvement in a ball bearings smuggling case.

He was sent to a prison near Trichy and a case was registered against him. Kannan moved a bail plea in the case and a Trichy court gave him bail in February 2008 after the police failed to file a chargesheet within the stipulated time.

But the Q Branch forcibly ‘rearrested’ him in front of the jail entrance and sent him to a special camp for Lankan refugees at Chengalpattu. Then he was moved to another special camp at Poonamallee. When contacted, a senior Q Branch official said that like Kannan many inmates in the camp claimed they were Indians and “we felt that it was just to evade proceedings.” On a question about Kannan’s nationality, the official said, “We will prove his nationality in court.”

Kannan’s advocate Pugalenthi has filed a petition in the Madras High Court seeking his release from the camp meant for Lankan Tamil refugees linked to the banned LTTE outfit. “No one in Q Branch was willing to take this case to its logical end,” said Pugalenthi.,

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