Piyush Manush, an environmental activist from Salem, Tamil Nadu, was arrested for allegedly “instigating enmity between groups,” on June 18.
Piyush has been protesting against the expansion of Salem Airport as well as the proposed eight-lane 270-kilometre superhighway, which will pass through the district as per the plan. His arrest comes a day after actor Mansoor Ali Khan was detained by police on the same issue.
Salem Highway & The Protest
Environmentalists are concerned that both the projects will destroy more than 2,000 hectares of fertile agricultural land and thickly forested slopes of the ecologically fragile hills. While the government claims that the project will reduce bottlenecks and travel time between Chennai and Salem the environmentalists are of the view that the 50km reduction is not worth the ecological damage.
Farmers of Poolavari, Nilavarapatti, Naazhikkalpatti, Kuppanur and Achankuttapatti village had expressed concern over and over again regarding the expressway and even restricted a Revenue Official from inspecting the area.
Piyush had brought environmental crusader Mansoor Ali Khan to talk to the villagers. According to The News Minute, during their visit to villages on May 3, Mansoor said “I came to Salem to see the water bodies filled with water. If Salem gets an airport, 8-lane highway etc, people can’t live in Salem. If the 8-lane road comes, then many trees and hills will be destroyed. It will affect the livelihood of the people who live here. Hence, the state and the central government must not implement it. Moreover, if there are protests against the highway, I will definitely participate. If the eight-lane project is implemented, then I will kill eight people and go to jail.”
Mansoor Ali Khan was taken into custody for making this statement. Piyush has been taken to Salem District jail as he was the one who brought Mansoor to the villages.
Environmental activist Nityanand Jayaraman told The Logical Indian that Piyush was educating the villagers about their legal rights. “The government does not encourage dissent. They are doing the exact opposite of what they stand for. They cannot just shut down the voices of the people. They have been robbing the villagers of their land. They just can’t think that they want to expand the airport and not think about the people. If this continues then a time will come when there will be no land, trees or water left”
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami stated in Assembly that the state government will use only 41 acres of forest land. He also added that of the 1,900 hectares of land being acquired, 400 hectares belong to the government.
Also read, Meet Piyush Sethia, Salem’s Green Warrior