The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam on Tuesday warned the Tamil Nadu government of statewide protests if the police search houses randomly to arrest villagers agitating against government projects, reported The Times of India.

More than 20 villagers were arrested for protesting against the proposed eight-lane Chennai-Salem expressway project on Monday, when the survey for the project started. The police also arrested environmental activist Piyush Manush on Monday and detained actor Mansoor Ali Khan on Sunday. On Tuesday, student activist Valarmathi was arrested for protesting.

MK Stalin, working president of the DMK, claimed the police were searching houses and threatening people in Salem and Thoothukudi. He tweeted a photograph of an old woman who was arrested and asked if democracy prevailed in the state or it was a hunting ground.

“The protesters include farmers, women and youth,” Stalin said. “We have been opposing such searches. If searches don’t stop, the DMK will start a statewide protest against police.”

Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam leader TTV Dinakaran also warned of protests “if the government is going to favour big corporate houses by arresting villagers”, The Indian Express reported.

Valarmathi’s arrest

Police have accused student activist Valarmathi of disrupting a meeting of revenue and police officials with villagers. She was present at the officials’ meeting with villagers in Achankuttapatti on Tuesday, and questioned their move to acquire fertile land for the project, unidentified police officers told The Hindu.

The officials asked her not to participate in the meeting as it was only for the residents of the area. However, she allegedly continued to argue with them, and told them the project would lead to destruction of natural wealth and will affect farmers’ livelihoods.

Police arrested Valarmathi when she did not leave the meeting hall.

Valarmathi, a journalism student of Periyar University, was detained by the Salem Police under the Goondas Act in July 2017 for allegedly distributing pamphlets containing slogans “harming national interests”. The Madras High Court had quashed her detention.