Who Is The Real Savukku Shankar?: A Whistleblower Or A Hired Hatchet Man Of Police And Politicians Or A Crazy Conspiracy Theorist?
Youtuber Savukku Shankar has gained significant traction in the Tamil digital political landscape in the last few years.
The Madras High Court has sentenced Shankar to six months in jail in a contempt case.
The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court on Thursday (15 September) sentenced Achimuthu Shankar aka Savukku Shankar, a noted blogger and Youtube personality, to six months simple imprisonment in a suo moto contempt proceeding for his remarks against the higher judiciary.
The orders were passed by a two-member bench comprising of Justice GR Swaminathan and Justice B Pugalenthi over a claim by Shankar during a Youtube interview with a Tamil channel that the entire higher judiciary is "riddled with corruption".
Besides sentencing Shankar to six months simple imprisonment ordered in the Madurai Central Prison, the bench also directed the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) to ensure that the portions of the "offending interviews" is removed.
"The contemnor would be well within his rights to highlight specific instances of corruption. Of course, they must be backed by materials. He cannot tar the entire institution with a single brush.
That would be crossing the lakshman rekha by a long shot. It is not as if the said remark accidentally tumbled out of his mouth. It was not a slip of the tongue." the judges ruled.
The judges noted that they would have closed the proceedings if the contemnor had realised his mistake and sincerely apologised. But far from doing so, the judges said, the contemnor stuck to his position of extensive judicial corruption.
The bench observed that the contemnor is "attacking all three organs of the State in a vicious manner." Since he is a suspended government employee receiving subsistence allowance for 13 years, his conduct is bound by rules, the judges noted.
During the first hearing on 1 September, Shankar informed the judges that he stood by his statement. He also claimed that the court has been unfairly expanding the charges against him, which made it difficult for him to file his reply.
In the last few years, Shankar has gained significant traction in Tamil digital political landscape thanks to multiple Youtube interviews on day basis. His highly engaging style blends political mudslinging, slanderous social media postings, misogynist and casteist vitriol even while conveying an impression of being an anti-corruption crusader.
Shankar first shot to prominence during the 2008-2010 period after an anonymous blog post (later it came to be known that the blog site was operated by him) published a series of articles detailing various corrupt deals linked to ruling DMK and cops close to the ruling party.
Shankar, who was then working as a lower division clerk (LDC) in the directorate of vigilance and anti-corruption (DVAC), was arrested for leaking sensitive information to the press.
As per his own account, he was subjected to third-degree torture in jail. Though Shankar was suspended from the job (which he secured on humanitarian grounds after the demise of his father, who was working in the department), he continued to draw a subsistence allowance.
Foray in to political commentary
After keeping a low profile for a few years, Shankar re-emerged as a fierce critic of the Edapadi Palanisamy-led ADMK government. Shankar also recast himself as an ideological fellow traveller of the Dravidian-Periyarist movement and gained visibility in various media outlets.
In the run-up to the 2021 state assembly elections, he ran a campaign against AIADMK-BJP alliance.
According to a few DMK insiders, Shankar is seen as closely aligned to a faction within the party owing allegiance to party MP Kanimozhi Karunanidhi, the sister of Chief Minister MK Stalin.
Few others maintain that he is now operating as a cheerleader of Congress after his close associate Sasikant Senthil, a former IPS officer from Karnataka, joined the party.
Over the last few months, Shankar has turned into a bitter critic of the DMK government especially targeting the party's heir apparent Udayanidhi Stalin and several key ministers.
While he continues to maintain that he is a well-wisher of 'Dravidian Model' and DMK government, he has alleged rampant corruption by the first family of the party. He has frequently claimed that Sabareesan, son-in-law of Stalin, is the 'defacto CM of Tamil Nadu, and administration is controlled by his coterie.
Shankar has also been levelling serious allegations against G Square, a real estate firm that has been at the eye of the storm over its close ties to the family members of state CM Stalin.
The company, which aggregates land parcels for selling big corporates and setting up IT parks (besides several luxury housing projects), has seen a meteoric rise in its fortunes in the last couple of years.
In April 2021, the Income Tax department officials raided the residence of Bala Ramajayam, the managing director of G Square. IT department sleuths also searched premises belonging to a real-estate firm. IT raids at G-Square premises were said to be a part of an investigation against Sabareesan, son-in-law of Stalin.
During the same day, IT officials also conducted raids at premises belonging to Senthamarai Sabareesan, daughter of Stalin and Karthik Mohan, a close associate of Sabareesan and son of Annanagar MLA Mohan.
In May this year, Chennai filed an FIR against leading media outlet Sankar based on a complaint filed by G Square that he had threatened to tarnish the reputation of the company founder and managing director Bala Ramajayam. The case was suddenly dropped, resulting in a lot of speculation over why it was done.
Shankar's proximity to a section of police force
The tardy response of the state police to a harassment case filed against Shankar by a senior journalist lends further credence to a view prevailing among a section of observers that he often acts as a hatchet man of a faction of the top police leadership.
Sandhya Ravishankar, an award-winning independent journalist from Chennai, filed a complaint with the National Commission for Women (NCW) against Shankar over charges of harassment, stalking and defamation.
In her complaint to the Commission, Sandhya stated that Shankar had indulged in character assassinating her by making unfounded allegations in an article published on 27 August 2018, in his blog ‘Savukku’.
She stated that she neither knew Shankar nor followed him on social media and had come to know about the defamatory article after she was alerted by a friend.
She said that Shankar continued to slander her in his Facebook pages, alleging that she took bribes to go after a mining company which runs Tamil Nadu’s one of the mainstream news channels.
Sandhya also mentioned that she had registered a complaint with the Chennai Police Commissioner back in October 2018, but no progress was made on the investigation, following which she had written to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) in October 2019 and received a response.
She later filed complaints at the Ashok Nagar police station and Teynampet police station as directed, but no action has been taken.
Sandhya also accused Shankar of being a serial abuser and was facing harassment charges dating back to his clerical days in DVAC.
Shankar has recently declared his political ambitions. Some political observers claim that the high court ruling will catapult him as 'courageous crusader' in the eyes of the public, paving the way for his political entry.
A senior reporter of Tamil political weekly, however, claimed that police and political class have plenty of 'sordid details' about him and his utility for the system is limited only to operating as a 'freelance mercenary'.
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