In a dramatic turn of events, Indian Revenue Service (IRS) officer B Balamurugan from Tamil Nadu, who had been vocal about demanding the dismissal of Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman over an Enforcement Directorate (ED) case, was suspended by the Union Ministry of Finance on Monday, just two days before his scheduled superannuation on January 31.
Balamurugan, serving as the Deputy Commissioner of GST and Central Excise in Chennai (North), has a history of addressing concerns through letters to higher authorities. His suspension, seemingly linked to his outspoken nature, is not the first of its kind. Previously assigned to the Hindi cell in Central Government departments for Hindi language development, Balamurugan’s assertion of his Tamil identity, Dravidian roots, and anti-Hindi protest stance resulted in a suspension.
Known for participating in protests related to the perceived mistreatment of Eelam Tamils, Balamurugan faced punitive measures for his activism, which he claims was connected to the Central Government’s orchestrated actions against Eelam Tamils. He also undertook a fast during the Russia-Ukraine war, aiming to draw attention to the conflict.
The latest episode revolves around a letter Balamurugan wrote to President Darupadi Murmu, calling for the dismissal of Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. This move came in response to the ED issuing summons to elderly farmers in Tamil Nadu on charges of money laundering, which were later revoked. Dated January 2, 2024, the letter accused the ED, under Sitharaman’s leadership, of operating as an “extended arm of the BJP.” It alleged that the ED had transformed into a “BJP Policy Enforcement Directorate.”
The suspension order issued by the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs mentioned that disciplinary proceedings are being contemplated against B Balamurugan. He is suspended with immediate effect, and he is not allowed to leave the headquarters without prior permission from the competent authority. The suspension order did not provide any specific reason for Balamurugan’s suspension.
Speaking to the media, Balamurugan characterised the suspension as an act of revenge, claiming it was due to his advocacy against the alleged harassment of two poor farmers. His hunger strike earlier in the month aimed to draw attention to the plight of these farmers.
Balamurugan had garnered attention after demanding the dismissal of Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman over an Enforcement Directorate (ED) case involving two Dalit farmers.
However, recent revelations suggest a different perspective. On July 12, 2021, the Tamil Nadu Forest Department forwarded a letter to the ED regarding farmers Kannaiyan and Krishnan. The case involved the alleged killing of two wild buffaloes, constituting scheduled offences under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. The ED, following international mandates from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to address wildlife-related cases, registered the case and issued summonses. It’s noteworthy that during this period, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu was MK Stalin. Eventually, the ED chose to dismiss the cases.
Critics argue that the recent portrayal of Balamurugan’s suspension by Dhanya Rajendran’s The News Minute is incomplete. The portal, which previously championed the cause of the Dalit farmers in the ED case, is now crying foul over Balamurugan’s suspension. The portal’s reporting has been accused of attempting to make a hero out of Balamurugan without presenting the full context of the ED case.
Adding another layer to the controversy, it’s revealed that Balamurugan’s wife, Dalit G Pravina, served as the lawyer for the farmers in the ED case. This connection raises questions about potential conflicts of interest and biases in the narrative presented by The News Minute.
As Balamurugan’s suspension remains a focal point of discussion, the nuanced details surrounding the ED case and its dismissal contribute to a more complex narrative. The controversy sheds light on the challenges of presenting a comprehensive view of events, especially when vested interests and personal connections are involved.