Coalition for Environmental Justice – India has issued this statement:
We write as concerned citizens and environmental justice activists in support of Piyush Sethia of Salem, Tamil Nadu who has been arrested, denied bail and beaten inside Salem Central prison. Piyush is a noted environmental activist of Salem Citizen’s Forum (SCF). He has been booked under IPC sections 341,188, 353 and 506 (2).
On 8.07.2016, when Piyush and other members of SCF were protesting against the railway authorities for starting the construction work of Mulvadi gate over-bridge in Salem without giving prior notice to the people in the area and without laying an alternate road, police arrested Piyush and two other activists, Eesan Karthik and Muthu of SCF.
On 14.07.2016, the Salem Magistrate’s court dismissed Piyush’s bail application while granting conditional bail to the other two activists. Piyush has been kept in solitary confinement since the day of his arrest. And as per Piyush’s wife and his lawyer, Piyush is being subjected to physical and mental harassment and not allowed to receive reading material or allowed to speak to his wife and other supporters freely. Infact, some of the supporters in Salem are being intimidated and threatened via phone calls to isolate Piyush. According to Piyush’s lawyer, Piyush was beaten ‘for a good half an hour before they sent him to solitary confinement’. Yesterday Piyush informed his lawyer that ‘he was abused by a group of unknown persons numbering nearly 30 inside the prison several times’. We are shocked at this high-handedness of prison authorities and custodial assault on Piyush.
Piyush has done commendable work in the field of Environmental Protection and Climate Change mitigation. We would like to bring to your notice some of them:
1. He leads Salem Citizens Forum to revive many water bodies in Salem city like Mukaneri, Ammapettai eri Kundukkal eri, Ismailkhan eri, Arisipalayam Theppakulam and Pallappatti well.
2. He has created a co-operative forest in Dharmpuri extending upto 150 acres, with the support of his friends and well wishers. This mountain forest acts as a water catchment area for Ettimarathupatti Canal which supplies irrigation water to 17 villages in the vicinity.
3. He has led many citizens’ initiative to protect the natural resources of Salem and its surrounding areas. He has also initiated many green and sustainable livelihood projects and protected the Salem, Yercaud and Hoggenekkal Dam areas from environmental damage.
4. In the recent floods of Chennai and Cuddalore, Piyush and members of SCF, Nizhal and Dharmapuri People’s Forum mobilized 35 containers of relief material and tirelessly worked to reach the materials in time. This won Piyush a CNN-IBN award recently. He was also named as one of the advisors of Nilam, Neer, Neethi (Land, Water, Justice) initiative of Ananda Vikatan group which was kicked off following the floods to protect water bodies in Tamil Nadu.
Immediate release of Piyush and all charges foisted against him and other activists be withdrawn forthwith.