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Makkal Adhikaram has been much in the news recently. Dubbed as an extremist organization by authorities, its activists have been associated with many agitations that caught public attention in the state including the Tuticorin protests. Kaliyappan, treasurer of Makkal Adhikaram, talks to inmathi about these issues.

BJP leader Subramanian Swamy has said that extremist organizations are active in Tamil Nadu. Today, minister Pon Radhakrishnan said the centre is monitoring the situation in Tamil Nadu regarding extremist groups. How do you react to this?
Hitler’s code is that if a lie is repeated again and again, it will become truth. The RSS and its members like Swamy and Ponnar are inheritors of the legacy of Hitler. It is a blatant lie that extremists are infiltrating Tamil Nadu. They think that by repeating the lie that the jallikattu agitation and Sterlite agitation were caused by extremists people will believe it. They want to include those struggling for the people in the list of extremists. We don’t see any extremism becoming stronger in the state.

What is extremism as far as you are concerned?
A company like Sterlite that was thrown out of Gujarat and Maharashtra has been proven to be a killer. When people agitate against it, they dub the agitations as extremist and become agents of corporate owners. BJP and RSS have continued to say such things. They denigrate minorities through terms such as Islamic fundamentalists and use terms like Tamil nationalists and Naxalites. But only these people are talking about extremists. The Tamil Nadu government says the state continues to be a garden of peace.

What was your organisation’s role in the Tuticorin agitation?
All parties have owned the protests. Pon Radhakrishnan has proudly said he agitated against Sterlite in 1996. But if Makkal Adhikaram said it participated in the protest, then it becomes extremism. How is this right? We agitated just like other parties. We did our best to create awareness outside Tuticorin regarding the issue. The people there had sought the help of lawyer Hari but courts had sought to stop the protests. Against this, Vanchinathan, as a socially concerned lawyer, went to Madurai high court and got permission.

Two days before May 22, the administration had asked protesters to hold their agitation at a school ground but Makkal Adhikaram did not agree to it.
Makkal Adhikaram was not invited to that meeting. Representatives of the protesters participated in it and they took the decision to lay siege to the collectorate. Government, police and Sterlite came up with a plan to create trouble and killed 13 innocent people.

But police say throughout the march, the protesters were asked to stop. When the crowd went out of control, firing was ordered.
When a protest had been continuing for so long and had intensified over 99 days, it was undemocratic to clamp Section 144 against the 100th day protest. The police did not really use force to stop the protesters. They only pretended as if they were stopping them but regrouped in the collectorate to create trouble. It’s a planned murder.

After the Tamil Nadu government issued a GO ordering closure of the unit, the Tuticorin collector has taken action to remove the remaining chemicals inside the plant premises. Isn’t the administration sincere in its decision?
This is just an eyewash. Soon after the order was issued, legal experts pointed out that it would be easy to strike it down. Things are moving ahead to re-open the plant in Tuticorin. Sterlite has approached the National Green Tribunal. The police have gone to villages and threatened villagers to say that it was Makkal Adhikaram that created trouble. It has taken some villagers and made them give a petition asking for re-opening of the plant. When some 40,000 people participated in the protests, they have got 20 people to ask for Sterlite’s re-opening. They have spread rumours that we have said only fishermen were responsible for the violence. While they talk of closure of Sterlite, they are doing such things to hoodwink people.

There is criticism that your actions seek to rouse people against the political system.
This is a baseless assertion. People protest when they are affected. We only help them. In Tamil Nadu, there are many unsolved problems and these are the reasons for agitations.

The state has been continuously seeing agitations. Why?
No one in the state is happy and contented. All sections are suffering due to one reason or the other. They are asking for justice.

As an organization, what are your goals and aims?
In the name of democracy, the government is working for corporate capitalists and political leaders. Our desire is that the government should serve the people. But the government today is working against the people. They are destroying thousands of farming families to create a highway, for instance.

Does your organization think there should be a revolution against the present system?
A government that works against the majority of the people should be changed. In the past, when kings ruled there was despotism. What happened then created democracy. A government that is not willing to consider even small demands should be changed.

Many communist movements including the Naxalites have sought to militantly organize people in India and have failed. Is Marxism still valid in India?
The movement may have faced setbacks but Marxism is not a wrong ideology. Capitalist democracy has degenerated human life. Marxism is the only alternative.

Is electoral democracy a path of thieves?
I don’t want to comment on that. But it is true that elections have brought little benefit. Those who have won elections have shown that opinion is correct.

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