From the Tamil Nation Monthly, 15 August 1991
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 policeparty 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 said nothing 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.
Mr. Sivanayagam, manacled, being taken to Madras
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
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 - againquiteopenly.
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
“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
There was nothing secretive about the Tamil Nation and there was nothing
secretive about the stand that Mr.Sivanayagam took as Editor
oftheTamilNation.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 typicalassertionofthat 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 conclusionappears 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.