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Chandra Mohan shot to fame recently when he tore down banner of ADMK which were blocking the footpaths. He has done the same for other major political parties who had illegally placed banners and huge cutouts. Chandra Mohan came back after an illustrious 9 years in the United states to take up people’s issues and acting on them through his organisation Arappor Iyakkam (Non-violent fight for truth and justice). He spoke to The Logical Indian on why he came back from the US and why he took up mass movements for his future plans.
■ You tore down banners of ADMK recently and even got arrested for the same? Why did you do that?
For the record we have done the same to other party banners also, just that when we did it this time the news became viral. The placing of banners on walk path goes against a High court order which banned it. Someone had to rise up against this and we knew people will follow. We worked tirelessly in reaching out to people during the Chennai floods and just when the city was limping back, we saw these huge banners which blocked the footpath. The insensitivity fired us up even further. Banners are symbols of oppression which has to be done away with.
■ How successful was this campaign against banners and hoardings?
It is a good start, more people have shown willingness to join and come forward breaking the shackles of fear. Success is when all the people are unshackled from fear of misbehaving cadres, Success is when people know that they are the masters in Democracy and not the other way round.
■ There were videos of you and your friends Atther Ahmed and Jayaram Venkatesan getting assaulted by party cadres, how did you respond?
Yes we were assaulted and we were prepared for it, we knew the path to truth and justice won’t be an easy one. However we made it a point that we won’t hit back or even file complaints against people who assaulted us. We have chosen the path of sathyagraha and we will abide by it. No matter how badly we get hit or how many death threats we get, we will stick to our principles of non-violence.
■ You were in the US for long why did you come back?
I always wanted to something for my country and that feeling was always there. I didn’t apply for green card as well; during my last years in the US i joined the New York film institute to pursue my career in film making. Two movies which were close to my heart was Gandhi and Swades, these movies had a profound impact on me. During my first days after I came back I had noticed one incident which changed the way I looked at life. I witnessed a poor boy picking a packet of bread which was thrown out from a building and infected by fungus. An incident which continues to shake me when I think over it again. Then I became part of anti-corruption movements for long before Arappor Iyyakam.
■ What are your plans for the future?
We have set the ball rolling for a mass campaign. A campaign that will empower citizens. Next time we are not going to go after the banners; we will pass all the contact details of all police stations and other public grievance departments and officers to people. We will ask people to make complaints when political parties break the law not only for placing banners but for any public inconvenience they might cause. We have had instances where our complaints have been neglected and some instances where our complaints were deliberately neglected or rejected. Complaints on a mass scale will be hard to ignore. And if ignored there is judicial recourse to the same.
Chandra Mohan signs off with a smile on his face and determination in his eyes.