Published: 24th October 2017
Break the rules when it’s for the right cause, says this Tamil Nadu activist, who is lobbying for a non-electoral system
The activist feels every student has a right to protest and opposition from the judiciary and authorities goes against India's Constitution and sovereignty
They say that circumstances create an activist and so goes the story of Thirumurugan Gandhi. It all began when he put himself in the midst of a school protest, where he banded together a committee to strike against the school for ten days when they changed the annual exam pattern for class XII. He then went on to become an active participant in protests that were organised during his college days at Madurai Kamaraj University. Today, he has drawn himself further into the fight for Tamil Eelam, following in the footsteps of Muthukumar, a fellow activist who sacrificed his life for the cause.
Every true-blue Tamilian was angered by the Mullivaikal incident, where lakhs of civilians were killed in the war between the Sri Lankan Government and the LTTE, who were demanding an independent state for the Tamil Eelam. The civil war ended when the leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, Velupillai Prabhakaran was killed on May 18, 2009. Following this, Thirumurugan started a movement called the May 17 Movement, that has, over the years, stood up for the people, including exposing the controversial TFA Policy Agreement signed by the Indian government at the World Trade Organisation (WTO). In the following years, this movement has organised Mullivaikal Remembrance Day at Marina Beach and has raised its voice against several other issues. His participation has even got him arrested along with others under the Goondas Act.
The movement, which doesn't have the backing of any political party, has quickly become popular amongst the youth who are now campaigning for youngsters to join politics. “The electoral system is wrong and so are the politicians in Tamil Nadu,” says Thirumurugan. One might be under the impression that a life of protesting isn’t healthy, but the activist tells us that it has always given him the confidence to stand against the power that fails to function and has always made him move forward with any situation. "When I was a student, we were a lot more involved in protests which exposed political and society-based issues. This is now missing in the current generation," says the leader.
Right to Justice: His movement has gained traction among Tamil youth
Being popular among students groups and finding recognition among them isn't an easy thing. Thirumurugan and his movement have always been the strength behind many student protests — be it some campus protest or the recent Marina Jallikattu protest. He has been labelled as an anti-national by members of the ruling party when he supported students during the Jallikattu protests, despite the fact that they have been fighting for the cause for over three years. When asked about the Kerala High Court's recent law on protesting, he says, "I think it is the right of every student to protest for justice and if it is the judiciary that is imposing such laws, then I think it's going against the constitution of the nation and the sovereignty of the people."
With all this talk of protest, we wondered why the people of Tamil Nadu were focusing on finding solutions to their problems through protests and not lawfully. Without batting an eyelid came this reply, "It is because of the failure of the bureaucracy, legislature and the judiciary affecting all sections of people. When students are one among the affected, it is in their nature to choose protest as their weapon of choice. "Now that the people's voices are slowly yet surely getting louder, the motive of the May 17 Movement is to help them organise themselves in democratic means such as a non- electoral way. As a part of this, the movement has been politically educating students from different parts of the state, says Gandhi.