Yogendra Yadav released after brief arrest in Tamil Nadu for trying to meet farmers opposing Salem-Chennai Expressway project

Swaraj India president Yogendra Yadav on Saturday was allegedly arrested and manhandled by Tamil Nadu Police when he was on his way to express solidarity with farmers protesting against the proposed Salem-Chennai Expressway project in Tiruvannamalai. However, he, along with 40 other farmers, were released late on Saturday night, following which Yadav held a meeting with women farmers from the village Nammianthel.

Yadav and and some others were earlier detained at Chengam in Tiruvannamalai district on Saturday morning. The Swaraj India leader tweeted that he was "manhandled" and pushed into a police van.

"We came on the invitation of Movement Against 8Lane Way. We were prevented from going to meet farmers, phones snatched, manhandled and pushed into police van. Firsthand experience of police state in TN," he had tweeted on Saturday.

Yadav said he had come to Tiruvannamalai on a fact-finding mission on land acquisition for the Salem-Chennai Expressway when he was stopped from proceeding. In another tweet, Yadav, a well-known psephologist and activist, said he had been locked with some others in a marriage hall.

The Rs 10,000 crore eight-lane expressway connecting Salem and Chennai is being opposed by a section of farmers and landowners who do not want to part with their land.

Yadav also tweeted that he was detained without a formal order, and said he was not allowed to meet farmers because of a police order which restrained him from interacting with them.

He said, "I have refused to obey the illegal police order restricting me from meeting farmers at their home. I am proceeding to village Nammianthel." In a tweet, Yadav also detailed the conversation he had with the police officer before he was arrested.

Yadav's arrested evoked strong condemnation from Opposition leaders including DMK leader MK Stalin who condemned the "arbitrary detention".

"The DMK strongly condemns the arbitrary detention of @_SwarajIndia chief @_YogendraYadav who supported farmers affected by #ChennaiSalemExpressway project," he tweeted. The "intolerant" AIADMK government will pay the price for denying people the democratic right to dissent and protest, Stalin added.

Makkal Neethi Maiam founder-president Kamal Haasan on Saturday condemned the detention of the Swaraj India leader. He said 'brother' Yadav, "a politician from a different state" had come to learn about the opinion of the farmers of our state".

"This act is to be criticised and condemned, as it prevents opinions from being shared and is an act of dictatorship," Haasan said in a statement in Chennai. People should have the freedom to express their views without fear, the actor-turned-politician added.

The Chennai-Salem Expressway project, a Central Government initiative being implemented by the Tamil Nadu government, aims to bring down the travel time between Salem and Chennai.

The proposed 277.3-kilometre expressway has been facing opposition from local residents, including farmers, as well as activists. Environmentalists are also opposed to the prospect of a large number of trees being cut for the project.

Tiruvannamalai is one of the five districts that the proposed superhighway is to pass through. The other districts are Kancheepuram, Krishnagiri, Dharmapuri, and Salem. The longest stretch of the proposed highway, which will pass through Tiruvannamalai, is expected to have a damaging impact on the pristine Eastern Ghats forest environment, say ecologists. In Tiruvannamalai alone, where 123.9 kilometres of the proposed highway would pass through, about 95 percent of the land procured is precious agricultural land.

The state government has been insisting that it will help address the issue of fatal accidents on this stretch, besides saving on fuel and vehicular wear and tear. Chief Minister K Palaniswamy said compensation being offered to landowners was more compared to the past, as the guideline value has increased.

With inputs from PTI

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Updated Date: Sep 09, 2018 08:38:41 IST