Chennai journalist arrested, released later

Updated on Sep 12, 2022 05:02 AM IST

Kannan had published an article two days ago on Aram Online stating that there was no transparency in the investigations into the student’s death in Kallakurichi in July.

Senior Tamil journalist Savitri Kannan was arrested from his home in Chennai over an article on Kallakurichi student suicide case. (HT Archives)
Senior Tamil journalist Savitri Kannan was arrested from his home in Chennai over an article on Kallakurichi student suicide case. (HT Archives)
By, Chennai

Senior Tamil journalist Savitri Kannan on Sunday said his arrest for his article on the Kallakurichi student’s death case is an attack on the press and the police’s way of issuing a warning to all journalists.

Kannan, the editor of the website Aram Online, was arrested from his home in Chennai by the Kallakurichi district police and later let off with his lawyer’s undertaking. Speaking to HT while he was on his way back to Chennai from police custody, Kannan said he received a call around 11.30am from a person pretending to be from Behindwoods (a famous Tamil media Youtube channel).

“That person kept calling me ayya. He didn’t sound like a media person so I had my doubts then but when they asked me for my house address and directions, I gave it to them anyway. Within five-ten minutes 6 policemen barged into my house,” Kannan said.

They introduced themselves as officers from the Cyber Crime Wing from Kallakurichi. They were policemen in plainclothes. Kannan said they snatched his phone away and dragged him into the police vehicle. “I didn’t even know for sure whether they were policemen or thugs. Clearly, their intention was to intimidate me and my family.”

The officers informed Kannan that a complaint has been filed against him under four sections under the IPC including 504 (Whoever intentionally insults, and thereby gives provocation to any person, which likely causes him to break the public peace) and on charges of spreading misinformation.

Kannan had published an article two days ago on Aram Online stating that there was no transparency in the investigations into the student’s death in Kallakurichi in July. “I was already warned that police have been following me closely,” said Kannan.

“Initially they were planning to take me for questioning in Kallakurichi but the plan changed mid-way.” Kannan was taken to Tindivanam in Villupuram district where he was questioned for an hour and a half. “I have not got bail. They have let me out with an undertaking from my lawyer and have placed several restrictions on me such as asking me to turn up whenever they call me and not questioning the police’s investigation.”

There was no statement from the Kallakurichi police on this. But there was a police statement that a youngster named T B Pachamuthu (23) was arrested based on video evidence that he had damaged the private school on the day that riots had broken out.

The17-year-old girl was found dead on July 13 inside the hostel premises of a private school in Kallakurichi which became sensational in Tamil Nadu even leading to copycat suicides of school children. The class 12 girl’s parents have suspected foul play since then until now taking her case to the Madras high court and Supreme Court.

The school management and local police had said that it’s a case of suicide. Protests since then erupted into a riot-like situation on July 17 in which 52 police officers were injured. Locals indulged in arson and the school was vandalised. The case was then transferred to the CB-CID. A court ordered Special Investigating Team is also probing the riots. The Madras HC also gave its verdict in August that this is a case of suicide and issued bail to the five who were arrested- the school’s correspondent, the secretary, the principal, and two teachers.

“A large section of the public has had suspicions over the child’s death which is the government’s duty to clarify but there is no transparency,” says Kannan. “Even the reports submitted, including that of JIPMER doctors, were submitted in a sealed envelope to the court. I have questioned all this within the lines of freedom of speech from a journalistic platform. I am not a journalist who sensationalises. There are no such words in my article. Arresting me is a sign. It’s a warning that police want to give to all journalists.”

The Chennai Press Club issued a statement condemning Kannan’s arrest. “The state government must protect democracy. They should not use the police for authoritarian measures,” read their statement adding that chief minister M K Stalin must ensure his release.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Divya Chandrababu is an award-winning political and human rights journalist based in Chennai, India. Divya is presently Assistant Editor of the Hindustan Times where she covers Tamil Nadu & Puducherry. She started her career as a broadcast journalist at NDTV-Hindu where she anchored and wrote prime time news bulletins. Later, she covered politics, development, mental health, child and disability rights for The Times of India. Divya has been a journalism fellow for several programs including the Asia Journalism Fellowship at Singapore and the KAS Media Asia- The Caravan for narrative journalism. Divya has a master's in politics and international studies from the University of Warwick, UK. As an independent journalist Divya has written for Indian and foreign publications on domestic and international affairs.

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