Eight persons, including five women, were detained on Sunday for drawing kolams (rangoli) against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the proposed National Registry of Citizens (NRC) on the streets in upscale Besant Nagar here.
High drama prevailed outside a marriage hall near the J5 Besant Nagar police station when three lawyers – one of them women -- who went meet those detained were also taken into custody.
Though all eight persons were released after a couple of hours, their detention made national headlines with political parties and netizens questioning the need to detain “innocent protesters” for agitating in the most peaceful way.
Kolam is drawn outside every home especially during the current Tamil month of Margazhi and festivals like Thai Pongal. Four women and a man, who gathered at Besant Nagar on Sunday morning, drew kolams by writing “No to CAA, No to NRC” on the streets of Besant Nagar.
Police who came to the spot detained them and took them to a marriage hall, saying they were holding a protest without due permission. Chennai and other cities of Tamil Nadu have been witnessing wide-scale protests against CAA since the second week of December and Sunday’s kolam was a unique form of expressing opposition to the new legislation.
K Gayatri, who drew kolams and was detained, told DH that they only had coconut shells and kolam powder in their hands. “We were only drawing kolams against CAA and NRC. The police who bundled us into a bus never answered our questions on why we were being detained. Such a thing happened only during Emergency in the 1970s and the worst thing was lawyers who came to meet us were also detained,” she said.
Drawing kolams to seek the attention of those in the government or to highlight a social cause is not new in Tamil Nadu – people had drawn rangolis during the Jallikattu protests and anti-Sterlite movement in Chennai and Thoothukudi.
The detention also caught political attention with DMK President and Opposition leader M K Stalin terming the incident as the latest example of the “growing anarchy unleashed” by the state government.
“This is a government that does not allow people to protest according to the rights granted by the Constitution. The police should withdraw cases against them. This earthworm government should respect the rights of citizens,” Stalin said.
Rubbishing the allegations, Tamil Development Minister ‘MaFoi’ K Pandiarajan said police could have acted against protesters because of their “distasteful” form of protest. “Drawing kolam would not have been the reason, the reason could have been distasteful way of drawing it,” he said.