Tamil Nation has called for the immediate release of
Mr.Subramaniam Sivanayagam, who has been detained
without trial under the Indian National SecurityAct.
Mr.Sivanayagam has functioned as the Editor of the
Tamil Nation since its start in September last
On July 18, at about 9.30 p.m., a police party
visited Mr.Sivanayagam's simple two room flat in Besant
Nagar. He lived there with his wife and two
daughters.The police officials informed Mr.Sivanayagam
that he was being taken in for questioning. They
saidnothing about the National Security Act. Mr.
Sivanayagam accompanied the police officers in the
belief that he would be back home, later that night. He
did not even take a change of clothes.
Mr.Sivanayagam whose health had been of increasing
concern during recent months, and who needs regular
medication, was forced to spend the night in the
Mylapore Police Station. Mr.Kuhadasan who assisted
Mr.Sivanayagam in his work at the Tamil Nation was also
taken into custody.
Neither of them were released even on the following
day. Instead, on the July 19, Mr.Sivanayagam was taken
from Mylapore to the Adyar Police Station again in the
night, this time at about 9 p.m..
On July 20, for the first time, he was taken before the
Saidpet Magistrates Court at about 4 p.m. and from
there to the Central Jail. July 21 was a public holiday
and a bail application was filed in the Magistrates
Court on July 22.
It appears that it was whilst the bail application
was pending, that the authorities belatedly decided to
act under the National Security Act - an Act which
enables an individual to be detained without charges
being framed for a maximum period of 12 months.
What are the grounds on which the Indian authorities
have decided to incarcerate a journalist with
Mr.Sivanayagam's unsullied reputation for integrity and
honesty, and separate him from his wife and children?
If the decision was made on the ground of 'national
security' when was it made? Was it made after the bail
application was filed or before?
Strangely, a police press note issued on Saturday
July 19 made no mention of 'national security'. The
press note which was published in the Madras Hindu
stated that two Sri Lankan Tamils, Sivanayagam and
Kuhadasan, were arrested from separate houses for
reportedly staying without valid documents.
The note added: "Following a search in the two
premises, police recovered Rs.16,000 in cash, 300 US
Dollars and eight copies of Tamil nation - an English
newspaper published clandestinely here in contravention
of the Press and Registration of Books Act and
announcing that the newspaper was published in London -
besides connected material."
Let us examine each of these allegations with care
and ask ourselves whether that which the Indian
authorities allege stands up to reason.
It cannot be the case for the Indian authorities
that a man may be taken from his home, late at night
and detained in a police station because he had three
miserable US $100 notes in his flat - a gift which a
recent visitor had given Mr.Sivanayagam in recognition
of his outstanding and fearless contributions as a
But is it the position that Mr.Sivanayagam should be
arrested because he was an over stayer? But then, it is
well known that thousands of Tamils from Sri Lanka have
been permitted to stay 'without valid documents'.
Again, surely, the Indian authorities have been well
aware for a number of years that Mr. Sivanayagam was a
Tamil from Sri Lanka without valid documents. After
all, what sort of documents do the Indian authorities
expect from a journalist who fled with his wife and two
children from the wrath of the Sri Lankan Government?
It was only the other day, that Mr.Sivanayagam
cheerfully joked on the phone that he was a well known
Kallathoni - so well known that he even had a
registered telephone! But behind the joke was the grim
reality that this honest human, who is today in his
late fifties, left his home in Jaffna in 1983, in a
boat, with his wife and children to Tamil Nadu where he
hoped that he may live with a measure of dignity and
Or is it the case for the Indian authorities that
Mr.Sivanayagam was arrested because he had not complied
with the latest request of the Tamil Nadu government
that Sri Lankan Tamil refugees should register
themselves with the State authorities?
The purpose of such registration was presumably to
identify those who were Sri Lankan Tamils. Unless this
recent measure was intended to harass and intimidate,
then surely it could not have been the intention that
Tamils who were known to the state authorities to be
from Sri Lanka, should register again.
Mr. Sivanayagam was such a well known figure, that
it is laughable that he should be arrested and held in
custody without bail, because he had not complied with
the latest of a number of requests to register.
Or is it the suggestion that Mr.Sivanayagam should be
arrested because he was editing a 'clandestine'
publication. But what was 'clandestine' about the Tamil
Nation? It was printed and edited in Madras quite
It was published in the United Kingdom - again quite
openly. Mr.Sivanayagam as the Editor, interacted openly
with a large cross section of persons from all walks of
life in Madras. It was not so long ago, on March 28,
that the prestigious Madras Hindu reported on a Seminar
organised by the Centre for South-East Asian Studies,
the Madras University, the Madras Chapter for the
Society for Indian Ocean Studies and the Island Trust,
Coimbatore. Mr.Sivanayagam played a prominent role at
the Seminar and the Hindu reported his contribution in
the following terms:
"Mr.S.Sivanayagam, Editor, Tamil Nation, said
India's foreign policy under Mrs.Gandhi had a mind of
its own and Colombo was always kept on its toes. If the
present situation on the island continued, the Sri
Lanka government might reach a point where it could
push itself into a deadend,politically, economically,
and militarily, leading to anarchy. Out of this chaos
might emerge a solution that could satisfy the Tamil
aspirations and give the LTTE an official recognition
that India had so far denied. He regretted that between
1984 and now, India's policy towards Tamil militancy
had been one of drift and ad hoc approaches."
This was the Editor, who, the police press note
would have the public believe, was engaged in a
'clandestine' publication! The publication was so
'clandestine' that the Madras Hindu, the Centre for
South-East Asian Studies, the Madras University, the
Madras Chapter for the Society for Indian Ocean Studies
and the Island Trust, Coimbatore were all into the
There was nothing secretive about the Tamil Nation
and there was nothing secretive about the stand that
Mr.Sivanayagam took as Editor of the Tamil Nation.
Mr.Sivanayagam was a journalist who was widely
respected for his fearless independence and his
commitment to the cause of the people of Tamil Eelam.
His declaration in the June 15 issue of the Tamil
Nation was a typical assertion of that independence and
"Tamil Nation is nobody's mouthpiece and is proud of
its individuality and independence. If an Indian
newspaper supports the Palestinian cause, it does not
become a PLO mouthpiece does it?"
The conclusion appears inescapable that the reasons
given by the Indian authorities for the detention of
Mr.Sivanayagam, without trial, do not stand up to the
test of reason. What is more, the Indian authorities,
have by their actions, denied Mr.Sivanayagam his
fundamental right to freedom of speech and due
Tamil Nation is not unmindful of India's national
security concerns but believes that such concerns
should not lead to actions which flout the rule of law.
Tamil Nation urges Prime Minister Narasimha Rao to
intervene and secure the release of a journalist who is
innocent of any wrong doing except that of asserting
his right to freedom of expression.