The Chennai Police arrested a journalist on Sunday morning for allegedly intimidating and attacking book fair organisers after he was asked to vacate his stall, reported The New Indian Express. V Anbazhagan has been remanded to judicial custody till January 24.
Anbazhagan was asked to stop displaying his book on the government’s alleged corrupt activities at the ongoing Chennai book fair. In his book “Corruption Book of Chennai Corporation”, Anbazhagan had put together RTI replies to highlight the alleged misappropriation of funds by the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government.
The police have booked Anbazhagan under non-bailable charges. He has been accused of wrongful restraint and criminal intimidation. “We have not arrested Anbazhagan for his books,” an unidentified police officer told Hindustan Times. “He was held for threatening [secretary of the Book Sellers and Publishers Association] SK Murugan.”
The Book Sellers and Publishers Association, which has organised the 13-day book fair at the YMCA ground in Nandanam, on Saturday went to Anbazhagan’s stall and said that he could not continue his display there because his publication was against the government, said the secretary of Chennai Press Club. Anbazhagan agreed to remove his stall if the officials gave him a letter stating the reason. And after he received it in writing, he left the venue. However, later publishing association officials filed a complaint against Anbazhagan for allegedly attacking them when asked to leave.
The Chennai Press Council has condemned the arrest and demanded his release. “Bapasi is under pressure from the government to complain against him,” alleged Bharati Tamilan, the secretary of the Press Club. “It is a direct attack on our freedom of speech if we cannot display books about the government in a book fair. He has paid for the stall and Bapasi cannot censor what content is displayed.”
The Press Club secretary pointed out that Anabazhagan has been on the government’s radar for a long time. As many as 26 cases have been filed against him in the past, he said. “They had even slapped the Goondas Act on him and he had been in jail for over 100 days,” he added. “And every single one of these is a false case.”
The fair organisers, however, denied the allegations. They said the complaint was filed as an act of self-protection by its secretary SK Murugan after he was attacked.
“When we allow for a stall to be set up, we give the participants 21 rules to be followed,” RS Shanmugam, BAPASI president, told The News Minute. “It is made very clear that a book against the government or banned by the government cannot be displayed. We have the right to censor what content is put up in the stalls. Anbazhagan when told to vacate his stall for violating the rules refused to go and assaulted our secretary.”
However, there is no mention of “anti-government” books in the list of rules for stall owners, according to The News Minute.