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"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C

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Selected Writings by Nadesan Satyendra
- நடேசன் சத்தியேந்திரா

Release Sivanayagam

Front Page Lead in Tamil Nation Fortnightly
15 August 1991

[see also One Hundred Tamils of 20th Century - Subramaniam Sivanayagam]

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 year.

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 journalist.
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 some security.

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 openly.

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 'secret'!

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 that commitment:

"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 process.
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.

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