An Economic Times report states that the fishermen, part of the unified group which participated in protesting against the Sterlite plant in Thoothukudi which led to violence, have claimed that they were ‘brainwashed’ into picketing at the district collector’s office. The violence led to the death of 13 people. The fishermen have claimed that the Left-leaning Makkal Adhikaram (People Power), which has been part of protests over Cauvery dispute, TASMAC and Sterlite, instigated the members of their community and coerced them to join the protests.
The fishermen claim that they had decided to protest at the site designated by the police as per the permission given. However, Makkal Adhikaram Association and some lawyers associated with it diverted them towards district collector’s office and engaged in violence. As reported by ET, the fishermen community has written a letter to District Legal Services Authority that lawyers associated with Makkal Adhikaram held propaganda meetings in villages near the Sterlite factory targeting the fishermen where it was planted in their minds that gheraoing the collector’s office was the only way to ensure permanent closure of the factory. The fishermen, in their letter, say that the lawyers roused passions through videos on social media and by directly meeting people at the protest site.
We had earlier written how Tamil Nadu leaders use the weapon of ‘protest’ for political redemption. In fact, actor turned politician Kamal Haasan gave a statement during the Sterlite protests which sounded eerily similar to the narrative peddled by Kashmiri separatists.
We had recently seen how violent protests appear politically motivated. During the Dalit protests which took a violent turn in April this year, social media was abuzz with speculations that the same person who was a Karni Sena activist during the violent protests at the time of the release of the film Padmaavat, was also a Dalit protestor. We had also reported how Aam Aadmi Party workers allegedly wore saffron clothes waved swords outside a mosque as a part of a conspiracy which could have led to communal tensions in the national capital.
This just shows how the political forces are coming together to create an atmosphere of political unrest as a run up to the 2019 general elections.