It has come to the attention of People’s Watch that the Madurai District Police have arrested Mr. Berlin Jose, a child rights activist and Director of Russ Foundation and its Manager Mr. John Prabhakar on 24.10.2019 on the basis of a complaint under the Protection of Children against Sexual Offences Act, 2012 for the alleged offence of “aggravated sexual assault” against a child and they are now in judicial custody in the Madurai Central Prison.
People’s Watch has organised a fact-finding in this matter headed by Prof. Vijayakumar for gathering and verifying information in this case. We have also intimated regarding the fact-finding to the District Collector and the District Superintendent of Police. The said team has started its enquiry in the alleged violence against the child, facts and circumstances regarding the alleged incident, witnesses in this incident, irregularities in the closure of the childcare institution etc.
People’s Watch vehemently condemns this act of the District Collector to detain Mr. Berlin Jose under the Goondas Act which has set a bad example and will definitely have its chilling effect on activists and organisations working in the field of child rights. It is also feared that this draconian law now used against a child rights defender if not questioned and condemned will extend to persons working for the protection of women’s rights, human rights, etc. It can be only seen as a step towards slowly acquiring all the non-governmental childcare institutions and privatising them. We demand that the Chief Secretary immediately intervenes in this matter and take necessary action and also ensure that there is freedom for civil society organisations and activists to carry on their work protecting human rights in the state of Tamil Nadu without any fear of persecution by using black laws.