Chennai rights activist Mugilan missing, seeks probe

Human rights defender Shanmugam Thangasamy, better known as RS Mugilan, remains missing, since February 15. He was last seen at the Chennai Egmore Railway Station after having co-organised a press conference relating to the killing of 13 protesters at a demonstration in May 2018.

He is Coordinator of the Tamil Nadu Environment Protection Committee and worked tirelessly on environmental issues in Tamil Nadu, opposing such issues as illegal sand mining and nuclear power. He has most recently been involved with the Anti-Sterlite Movement, which opposes a copper plant in Thoothukudi set up by copper-smelting company Sterlite Industries (India) Limited, a subsidiary of the UK-based company, Vedanta Resources.

He had been part of the fact-finding team to Thoothukudi and it is believed that his disappearance is linked to this line of work. Hours before his missing, he released a 46-minute-long documentary entitled, Koluthiyathu Yaar? Maraikkapatta Unmaigal (Arsonists – Sterlite – The Hidden Truths), at the press meet.

The documentary claimed that the police—in collaboration with officials from Sterlite Industries—had allowed a number of individuals, who RS Mugilan believe were hired by Sterlite, to disrupt the protest. The group set fire to bicycles and damaged CCTV cameras around the area in which the shooting subsequently took place.

In the documentary, he has demanded that police officers involved in the shooting be arrested. He named high-level police officials, including the then-Inspector General of Police, Shailesh Kumar Yadav, and Deputy Inspector General of Police Kapil Kumar Saratkar as being complicit in orchestrating the incident.

After the press conference, over a phone call, he told a rights activist friend that he had received threats and that he was worried about police action against him following the allegations he made against high-level police officials.

This is not the first time that RS Mugilan has been targetted for his peaceful work in defence of human rights. In March 2012, he was illegally detained by police for three days in relation to his involvement in exposing illegal sand mining in Koodankulam. In September 2017, he was arrested once again for his work on the same issue and was only released in September 2018 after his lawyer obtained bail.

Front Line Defenders (FLD) expressing grave concern about his disappearance and urged to carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the disappearance of RS Mugilan.


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