The Kanyakumari Police have summoned two Tamil television reporters for an inquiry on December 5 in connection with a trespassing case against two French journalists.
The police in the Tamil Nadu city filed a first information report against three people – journalists Arthur Roland Rene and Jules Damien, and Manakudy Parish priest, Father Hildas – on Friday under IPC Sections 447 (punishment for criminal trespass), 14(A) (penalty for entry in restricted areas), 14(B) (penalty for using forged passport) and 14(C) (penalty for abetment) of the Foreigners Act 1946. They allegedly entered the restricted and high security zones of Indian Rare Earths Limited near Kanyakumari.
The police have said that the two Indian journalists – D Ananthakumar and Sriram – assisted the French journalists, who were reportedly on a tourist visa, to conduct interviews with fishermen in Kanyakumari and Nagercoil. Rene and Damien reached Delhi on November 11 and met Ananthakumar and Sriram on November 23 in Madurai. The police have also claimed that Ananthakumar and Sriram helped Rene and Damien leave India.
Ananthakumar told Scroll.in that the French journalists approached them seeking help to create a documentary on the environmental impact of illegal sand mining in the coastal districts of Tamil Nadu. “We checked the credentials of the journalists. But we did not ask them about their visa,” he said, adding that they did not take them to any prohibited area.
The four journalists travelled across the coastal districts such as Tirunelveli, Kanyakumari and Nagercoil from November 23 to November 25, when they met several fishermen. “When we met to discuss the next day’s plan on the evening of November 25, the French journalists told us that they were meeting a Parish priest for breakfast the next day,” Ananthakumar said. “So, we told them to call us after they finish meeting with the priest.”
The priest had apparently took the French journalists to meet his friend, who is a human resources manager at the government-owned corporation Indian rare Earths Limited. When they entered the main building and met the HR manager, a security personnel told them that they were not allowed to visit without permission. After this, they allegedly left. The same day, they travelled to Thiruvananthapuram airport and left for France.
The Kanyakumari Police had summoned Ananthakumar and Sriram, who work in Chennai, on November 28. “When we reached, the police illegally detained us from 11 am on November 28 to 3 am on November 29,” Kumar said. “We were detained in our hotel room. On November 29, the police issued a summon for inquiry at 12.30 pm to appear before the police at 2.30 pm and asked us to sign it. After consulting our lawyers, we did not sign it. Later following pressure from media, the police freed us the same afternoon.”