Scribe arrested for displaying anti-govt book at fair

The prestigious annual Chennai Book Fair landed in a controversy on Sunday after police arrested a senior journalist, for displaying a book on AIADMK’s alleged corruption at his stall. He was arrested on charges of criminal intimidation based on a complaint filed by BAPASI.

V Anbazhagan, the scribe, was picked up from his residence at 5 am on Sunday and was produced before a court late in the afternoon, which sentenced him jail till January 24.

Anbazhagan's book refers to alleged corruption in the Smart City project in Chennai and is a compilation of RTI replies.

According to the Booksellers’ & Publishers’ Association of South India (BAPASI), the organisers of the event, Anbazhagan was asked to vacate his stall on Saturday after it was brought to their notice that he was selling a book on the alleged corruption of the state government.  

The organisers told him that publications that are against the government cannot be displayed at the event about which Anbazhagan had objections.

“Anbazhagan then demanded the organisers to give it in writing that anti-government books cannot be displayed at the book fair. After the organisers gave it in writing, he vacated the stall on Saturday night,” Bharathi Tamilan, joint secretary of Chennai Press Club, said in a statement.

However, BAPASI filed a complaint with the police alleging that Anbazhagan attacked some of its members following which he was arrested.

He is booked under sections 341 (Punishment for wrongful restraint), 294(b) (sings, recites or utters any obscene song, ballad or words, in or near any public place) and 506 (2)(Punishment for criminal intimidation) of the IPC.

R S Shanmugam, President of BAPASI, maintained that they don’t allow publications that are critical to the government to be displayed at the fair.  “While filing an application seeking a stall at the book fair, we had categorically said that everyone has to adhere to rules and regulations of BAPASI. It is against the rules to sell controversial books against the government,” he said in a letter to Anbazhagan.

Bharathi Tamilan said Anbazhagan was arrested earlier too under Goondas Act for writing against the government. “Anbazhagan’s arrest for publishing on the government’s corruption is a direct challenge to freedom of expression and press,” he said.

Chennai Book Fair that began on January 9 is an annual event that displays lakhs of books of various genre and its 2020’s edition was inaugurated by Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami.

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