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Nedumaran and his 2,000 books

By April 17, 2018No Comments

Source : The Indian Express

They may be lost, the print may not even be legible, but 16 years after his books were confiscated by the Tamil Nadu Police, the 85-year-old continues to fight a legal battle for their release

P Nedumaran

Sometime in 2002, a small consignment headed to Frankfurt was seized from Chennai airport. It had 100 copies of Kaviyanayakan Kittu (Epic Hero Kuttu), a yet-to-be-published political history of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) authored by P Nedumaran, a veteran Tamil nationalist movement leader. The seizure at the airport was followed by a raid at Nedumaran’s office in Chennai’s Vadapalani. This time, 2,000 copies of the book were confiscated by the Q-branch, the Tamil Nadu Police’s special intelligence and criminal investigation unit. Sixteen years after that raid, Nedumaran, now 85, is still fighting a legal battle to get the copies of his book back. The editor-in-chief of the Tamil by-weekly magazine Then Seidi, he has authored several other books in Tamil and English.

Exactly a decade before his books were seized, Nedumaran, by then already under the police radar as an alleged LTTE sympathiser, had been slapped with a sedition case for a ‘pro-LTTE’ speech he made in Tamil Nadu in 1992. Though a chargesheet was filed in January 1994, it didn’t come up for trial. However, a few months after the books were seized from his office, Nedumaran made another speech on Prabhakaran. This time, he was charged under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the sedition charge of 1992 was added on. He spent 15 months in jail before being acquitted by the Additional Sessions Court in 2003.

“They charged me for delivering a speech about Prabhakaran’s 2002 press meeting in northern Sri Lanka,” he says, sitting behind a cluttered desk in his small office in an old, two-storey building near Chennai International Airport. A framed, sepia-tinted photograph of Nedumaran with Prabhakaran and another with Congress veteran K Kamaraj are placed on a table. There is also a picture with former prime minister Indira Gandhi on the wall. In 2005, a chargesheet was filed against Nedumaran in the book’s case, but the Sessions Court acquitted him. He then filed a petition in the same court asking for the release of his books. But the prosecution opposed it and, in March 2007, the Additional Sessions Judge dismissed his petition.

“If the books are circulated, it will disturb the minds of the readers and the peace and tranquillity of the public,” the judge had said then.

The same year, Nedumaran approached the Madras High Court, which, on March 24, reserved its orders.
During the hearing in the High Court, advocate general Vijay Narayan submitted a copy of the book and argued that it contained “allegations against the Indian Army and former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi”. He insisted that the books should not be returned to Nedumaran.

“If I remember correctly,” says Nedumaran, clad in a khadi kurta and dhoti, “the 600-page book had nothing offensive against India”. “What offended the government were the portions I quoted from Lieutenant General Depinder Singh’s book, in which he criticises the actions of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in Jaffna. The General said that the LTTE was friendly. The then Jayalalithaagovernment claimed that those portions amounted to sedition and were disrespectful to the Indian Army,” he says. Singh was a commander of the IPKF in Sri Lanka in the late 1980s.

Nedumaran insists that his book was simply a “history of Tamil nationalism”. “It chronicled the LTTE fight during two significant events — the death of Thileepan, the LTTE’s political leader in Jaffna in 1989, and the 1993 suicide of Colonel Kittu, after being surrounded by Indian Navy ships off the Chennai coast,” says Nedumaran, his speech slow and trembling.

During the Lankan Civil War in 2009, Nedumaran headed a committee of Tamil sympathisers and international human rights activists and held talks with the Indian authorities to push for a ceasefire. He was also instrumental in securing the release of Kannada superstar Rajkumar from Veerappan in 2000.

Over the years, his camaraderie with Prabhakaran has been the source of several books, including a Tamil biography of the LTTE chief which, he claims, has sold over 15,000 copies. “There have been four editions of the book and the next one is on its way. It was an academic work. I spoke to everyone — his close aides, parents, siblings…,” he says, before impassively adding, “I have reliable information that Prabhakaran is still alive, he was never captured… he fled.”

Talking about his confiscated books, Nedumaran, who does not go to the court anymore, says he fears that the Q-Branch may have “lost” them. “It’s been nearly 16 years… I am not sure if they have kept the copies safely. The book wasn’t officially released and I just have one copy now,” says Nedumaran.

“It has been over a decade and we can only hope that we get the 2,000 copies back,” says Nedumaran’s counsel, Chandra Sekhar, sharing his client’s concerns.

Sources in the Q-Branch admittted to The Sunday Express that although seized items are never destroyed, the copies of Nedumaran’s book “may not be in good condition”. “It’s been so many years, the print may not be legible anymore,” a source said.
Reflecting on the allegations against his book, Nedumaran breaks into a smile as he says, “I didn’t write the book to instigate violence. It was the history of the LTTE… I am a Gandhian.”

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