ICSE model for Madhyamik
Pay more to study if you are ‘rich’
Hunt for daughter and justice
Mamata jumps at chance to back Atal and axe
Believe it or not, the midnight knock is legal
Pilgrim brushes aside black flags
Musharraf straw for Jaya
Video war unfolds before President
Left in Amma’s bear hug
Magnitude dawned on us later: police chief

 
 
ICSE MODEL FOR MADHYAMIK 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 2: 
The Left Front government has decided to review the Madhyamik syllabus to bring it on par with the ICSE and CBSE curricula.

“Our government believes an all-India standard should be maintained by all the boards in the country. This is why we have taken the move to review the Madhaymik syllabus,” school education minister Kanti Biswas told the Assembly while discussing the education budget.

Biswas, however, added that the proposed review did not imply the existing syllabus was inadequate.

Claiming it was “flawless”, he said: “The fact that we are taking the move does not mean the standard of the existing Madhyamik syllabus is low compared to that of other boards in the country. The Madhyamik standard is quite high. Still I feel it is necessary to introduce certain changes in it to bring parity with the syllabi of other boards like the CBSE and ICSE.”

The government’s move to modify the syllabus, however, comes in the wake of a strong demand from a section of teachers and authorities in the city’s ICSE and CBSE schools.

Recently, they approached the government with the complaint that there were gross dissimilarities between the ICSE, CBSE and Madhyamik syllabi. Several students who qualified the CBSE or ICSE exams often faced problems if they wanted to switch to the Higher Secondary course for the Plus 2, they said.

There are nearly 200 CBSE and ICSE schools in the state, but very few offer the Plus 2 course of these boards. Many students are crowded out of such institutions and have no option but to seek admission to schools affiliated to the Higher Secondary council.

Holding up these problems, teachers of ICSE and CBSE schools recently urged the State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT) to conduct a survey in schools and remove disparities.

Sources said the SCERT has referred the teachers’ proposal to the state school education department.

Biswas today reiterated that the government would take appropriate steps to improve work culture and increase accountability of teachers of state-funded institutions.

“Majority of the teachers perform their duties most sincerely. Yet we feel that there is need to take certain measures to improve the overall work culture among teachers,” the school education minister said.

Dismissing a cut motion by SUCI member Debaprasad Sarkar on problems faced by students seeking admission to Class XI, Biswas said over 800 schools had been upgraded to the Higher Secondary level.

“There is no question of scarcity of seats as each of the Higher Secondary schools have a maximum capacity to accommodate 300 students,” he said.

There would be an excess of 58,000 seats after all students qualifying this year’s Madhyamik exams are accommodated, the minister added.

Biswas said there would be no seat crisis anywhere in the state if students from districts did not seek admission to well-known city colleges.

   

 
 
PAY MORE TO STUDY IF YOU ARE ‘RICH’ 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 2: 
Higher education minister Satyasadhan Chakraborty today reiterated that the government will charge high fees from students who can afford to pay.

The minister said this in his speech during the discussion on higher education in the Assembly today. Without going into the details of the state-funded Jadavpur University’s plans to enhance all tuition and other fees, Chakraborty said a lot of funds are required for development of higher education.

The Centre has imposed a “huge curtailment of funds” in its education budget for the current financial year, Chakraborty said. The allotment of funds for education from the Centre to the state government has consequently been reduced.“In such a situation, why should we not charge high fees from the students who can afford to pay?” the minister asked.

‘We need a lot of money for modernisation of higher education. The state government alone cannot provide the funds. We will have to depend on students coming from rich families,” he said.

Chakraborty, however, added that the government will protect the interests of those students who come from low-income-group families. Earlier, the lone Opposition MLA present in the House had strongly objected to the state government’s move to raise tuition fees.

During the second half of the budget discussion, members of the treasury benches slammed Trinamul Congress and Congress MLAs for staying away from the House in protest against the stadium controversy. “The Left Front government has allotted more than Rs 4,000 crore for education. We are surprised to find that Trinamul Congress and Congress MLAs are not participating in the discussion on a vital issue like education,” said Chakraborty.

Legislators belonging to other Left partners — the RSP, Forward Bloc and the CPI — also condemned the Opposition members’ absence.

The higher education minister said his government will encourage private organisations to set up more engineering colleges in the state so that good students do not go away to others states, such as Karnataka and Maharashtra.

“Eight new engineering colleges are being set up in the current year in the state,” he said. With the eight new colleges, the number of private engineering colleges in Bengal will increase to 25.

For the development of higher education, the state government has plans to set up more centres of excellence in the state, Chakraborty said.

   

 
 
HUNT FOR DAUGHTER AND JUSTICE 
 
 
FROM ALAMGIR HOSSAIN
 
Ranitala (Murshidabad), July 2: 
Noor Mohammad has given up the battle with hope. For the past two-and-a-half months, the agriculture labourer has been hunting frantically for his teenaged daughter. But she is missing and Mohammad is on the verge of a mental breakdown.

A distraught Mohammad has lost his regular work because he had been running from one village to another and from one police station to another in search of his 13-year-old daughter Saifuza Khatun. He now faces starvation along with his wife and two sons.

On the afternoon of April 22, Saifuza, like other days, had gone out to play. But unlike other days, she did not return by the time she was supposed to. Her parents went looking for and learnt that one Sajjat Ali and his wife Behula Bibi, residents of their village, had left for Chhotonnagore, with Saifuza following them.

“Instantly it struck me that she had fallen prey to the girl-smuggling racket. I rushed to Ranitala police station. The officer-in-charge refused to take the diary and advised us to lodge the complaint with Bhagobangola police station,” Mohammed said.

He then went to Bhagobangola police station but was sent back to Ranitala thana. For 25 days, Mohammad continued to shuttle between the two police stations. On May 25, over a month after Saifuza went missing, the Ranitala OC agreed to record a general diary of kidnapping against Sajjat and his wife.

“What puzzled us the most was that the police neither raided their house nor arrested them. They had been roaming freely in the village,” Mohammad said. Disgusted with thana officials, Saifuza’s parents met the Murshidabad superintendent of police and lodged a written complaint.

Additional superintendent of police Sankar Singh said he was unaware of the case. District magistrate Vivek Kumar, too, said he had not heard about it, but promised to look into the matter.

Local residents are outraged at the manner in which the parents of a missing girl had to run from pillar to post for justice. “We are shocked at the way the Ranitala police refused to entertain Saifuza’s father’s complaint,” said one resident.

Quick to cash in on the local sentiments, the Murshidabad Congress condemned the callousness of the policemen. Congress MP from Behrampore Adhir Chowdhury said Murshidabad accounts for the maximum number of girls smuggled to Arab countries from India. He alleged that the indifference of the police and the administration was solely responsible for the growing number of crimes against children.

   

 
 
MAMATA JUMPS AT CHANCE TO BACK ATAL AND AXE 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, July 2: 
In a move perceived as a step closer towards rejoining the NDA, Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee today said she would support Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee if the Centre decides to impose Article 356 in Tamil Nadu.

Mamata, who had once demanded President’s rule in Bengal to tackle the “terrorism unleashed in the state by the ruling CPM”, said she would endorse any decision taken by the NDA coalition on Tamil Nadu where a former chief minister and two Union minister were treated in an “inhuman manner”.

She said that party MP, Sudip Bandopadhyay, who left for Delhi last night as her emissary, had also sent a letter to NDA convener, George Fernandes, to convey that the Trinamul would back the NDA on Tamil Nadu. “We will even support if the Centre imposes Article 356 in Tamil Nadu,” she said.

Trinamul insiders said that Mamata’s open announcement that she would even support President’s rule in Tamil Nadu only showed that she was interested in rejoining the NDA following pressure from a large chunk of her party’s leadership.

However, it is learnt that Mamata told her close aides that she would not return to the NDA at the cost of “honour and prestige”.

Trinamul sources said that Mamata’s pro-NDA stand taken in the wake of what happened in Tamil Nadu is only indicative of her willingness to maintain a good relation with the Vajpayee-led coalition.

Her comments criticising Jayalalitha’s action against M. Karunanidhi assume significance in the light of demands from a good section of Trinamul leaders that the party rejoin the NDA.

While demanding sports minister Subhas Chakraborty’s resignation in the stadium scandal, Mamata said that she had quit the NDA on the Tehelka issue demanding Fernandes’ resignation “only to strengthen the hands of the Prime Minister”. This is for the first time Mamata spoke of strengthening Vajpayee’s hands after she quit the NDA along with her MPs following the Tehelka exposé.

Party insiders said that if Vajpayee invited Mamata back to the NDA fold, giving her “the right kind of prestige and importance,’’ she was unlikely to reject it. They said that after rebel MP, Ajit Panja’s convention with dissidents last Saturday, where state BJP leaders and Mamata baiters like Tapan Sikdar were present, she would not have him back in the party.

“So, Mamata can only accept an offer to return to the NDA if she is assured that Panja would not get back his ministerial berth. Then it will be easier for her to take a decision against him like expulsion from the party. If Mamata expels Panja today, she fears he might end up becoming a minister,” a Trinamul leader said.

That Mamata is warming up to the possibility of rejoining the NDA is evident from the caution with which she has been reacting to developments involving prominent BJP and NDA leaders.

She was silent on Union home minister L.K. Advani’s statement two weeks ago before the Liberhan Commission in which he was reluctant to call the “demolished” structure in Ayodhya a mosque. Her silence was also perceived as her reluctance to antagonise the principal NDA partner.

The Trinamul MPs, particularly Bikram Sarkar, Krishna Bose and Ranjit Panja, are keen on the party’s return to the NDA. Moreover, Sarkar has gone on record saying that the alliance with the Congress has been a failure.

   

 
 
BELIEVE IT OR NOT, THE MIDNIGHT KNOCK IS LEGAL 
 
 
FROM R. VENKATARAMAN
 
New Delhi, July 2: 
Police manual rules framed under the Indian Police Act, 1861, stipulate that a political leader with mass following can be arrested only after midnight.

The British period legislation is still strictly followed in India to ensure that there is no law and order problem when a political leader is arrested.

It is this law that has now come to the help of Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalitha and put paid to the Centre’s plans to build up a case against the government on the ground that the police had “illegally” detained DMK leader M. Karunanidhi past-midnight.

Law ministry sources said a “brain-storming” session was held in the morning where the “official position of the book of law” was extensively discussed. Law minister Arun Jaitley, who is playing a key role in the absence of home minister L.K. Advani, who is abroad, wanted a “note” on the matter.

But, the sources added, “now there is no note, as the facts of law discussed in fact go in favour of Jayalalitha”.

According to them, the idea of a note was dropped as the officials felt that “considering the pure legal aspects” of the situation, it would be difficult to sustain any action that could be challenged as “illegal” or seen as having been done under “extraneous” considerations.

They said the “brain-storming” session also discussed the arrests of the two Central Cabinet ministers, Murasoli Maran and T.R. Baalu. But the officials could only reach the conclusion that “although it is unprecedented...it is equally legal as under the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) read with relevant provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), a person obstructing a public servant from discharging his legal duty is liable under the penal law”.

Both Maran and Baalu were arrested for, as the American legal expression goes “obstructing law”, in Indian legal position is “obstructing the police from discharging their lawful duty”. The sources said the ministers were not performing any “legitimate duty” in Chennai and criminal law could not be one for the common man and another for ministers.

The sources were dismissive about Maran’s letter to the Prime Minister in which he has stated that he has been prevented from discharging his official duty as a commerce ministry meeting is scheduled for tomorrow. “When he (Maran) indulges himself in an act (of a different kind) in a place away from Delhi, he cannot take that plea now,” they said.

Forced on the backfoot, the Centre now wants to find out a “face-saving” formula under which the two ministers would be released, and said it had already “reiterated its authority by sacking Fathima Beevi as Governor of Tamil Nadu”.

The ministers were released after a phone conversation between “key” officials in the law ministry and Tamil Nadu chief secretary P. Shankar, who took over the post on June 1.

It is believed that Advani, who is in constant touch with Delhi, too, advised a “cautious” approach and wanted the proposed Cabinet meeting to be “converted” into a meeting of the NDA. “He wants to participate in any major decision-making meeting of the Cabinet and he would be here by tomorrow evening,” government circles pointed out.

Sources said that after removing the Governor to exhibit its “authority”, the Centre now has few options other than issuing a veiled threat by invoking Article 355. Under this, a directive is issued by the Centre and its non-compliance could strengthen Delhi’s case for using Article 356 and clamp President’s rule.

However, given the situation, it would be difficult to promulgate the presidential proclamation because it has to be ratified by both Houses of Parliament and the Central coalition lacks the numbers in the Rajya Sabha. The government would require the Congress’ help to get President’s rule ratified.

   

 
 
PILGRIM BRUSHES ASIDE BLACK FLAGS 
 
 
FROM VENKITESH RAMAKRISHNAN
 
Guruvayoor, July 2: 
Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalitha virtually took the day off from official work and went on a pilgrimage in neighbouring Kerala even as her administration continued to firefight the aftershocks caused by the arrest of her political rival Karunanidhi.

As she went from one temple to another in Kerala, starting with the famous Sri Krishna temple at Guruvayoor in the morning, Jayalalitha did not look like a beleaguered chief minister. Neither the day-long strike called by the National Democratic Alliance in Tamil Nadu nor the feeble show of protest by BJP activists as she entered the Guruvayoor temple seemed to have any effect on her.

Without casting a second glance at the 25-odd agitators, who had rushed in with black flags and were bashed and rounded up by the Kerala police, Jayalalitha went about her business at the temple looking composed. She was accompanied by her companion Sasikala and astrologer Parappanagadi Unnikrishnan, who had apparently advised her to propitiate the deities in the various temples of Kerala.

Jayalalitha and Sasikala were dressed in identical brownish-grey Kanchipuram silk sarees and performed the various rituals together.

Jayalalitha offered a 12-year-old elephant, Kannan, and adorned Lord Guruvayoorappan with a gold crown worth Rs 1.5 lakh.

Jayalalitha has fulfilled a much-postponed appointment with Lord Guruvayoorappan. The visit was earlier postponed four times.

Arriving at Nedumabassery airport in Kochi at around 3 am, Jayalalitha drove directly to Guruvayoor and reached her destination at 5:30 in the morning.

The function at the temple began at 7 am and concluded by 8:30 am. Jayalalitha also visited five other temples in the state, including Parappanangadi Hanuman temple in Malappuram district and Taliparamba Raja Rajeshwari temple in Kannur district. She made costly offerings at these places, too.

The Kerala government was quite apprehensive about the timing of the visit. Several requests had poured in from authorities in Kerala, including chief minister A.K. Antony, asking Jayalalitha to postpone the pilgrimage. But Jayalalitha did not heed the requests.

The Kerala and Tamil Nadu governments put Guruvayoor and other towns under extensive security cover. In Guruvayoor, there were 250 securitymen led by a director-general of police, a DSP and six deputy SPs. The presence of the force appeared justified as BJP youth activists had tried to disrupt her programme in Guruvayoor, Kannur and Taliparamba.

   

 
 
MUSHARRAF STRAW FOR JAYA 
 
 
FROM KAY BENEDICT
 
New Delhi, July 2: 
Bihar and now Manipur seem to have taught Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and external affairs minister Jaswant Singh a lesson.They are very cautious about invoking Article 356 in Tamil Nadu despite the shrill cries of some of Vajpayee’s colleagues from Lalooland.

Sources said the anti-Laloo brigade from Bihar — George Fernandes, Nitish Kumar (Samata Party) Sharad Yadav (Janata Dal United), Ram Vilas Paswan (Lok Jana Shakti) and Yaswant Sinha (BJP) — were most strident in demanding President’s rule in Tamil Nadu.They have argued so in the Cabinet meeting presided over yesterday and the NDA meeting today.

Much to the discomfiture of the Prime Minister, who was out of the country in 1999, these very leaders had forced a Cabinet decision (chaired by home minister L. K. Advani) to clamp Central rule in Bihar only to be revoked later.

Sources said agriculture minister Nitish Kumar, supported by others, made a fervent plea for Article 356 in Tamil Nadu, but Vajpayee gently reminded him of the Bihar fiasco. Kumar, sources said, argued that even if the Congress did not support the move in Parliament and the government had to revoke it after two months, the Centre should go for it.

Both Vajpayee and Jaswant Singh, who are busy with the preparations for the Indo-Pak summit, emphasised the need for restraint. They did not want any ugly incidents (given Tamil Nadu’s track record of immolations) during Musharraf’s visit when 500-odd foreign journalists would be here to cover the summit.

Sources said when some agitated cabinet ministers suggested issuing a directive under Atricle 355 to the ADMK government to secure the release of the two Union cabinet ministers — Murasoli Maran and T. R. Baalu, — Jaswant Singh opposed even this move. Singh, once a close friend of Jayalalitha, told the meeting that the incarcerated ministers should seek legal remedy.

There was fear in some quarters that Jayalalitha may approach the Supreme Court and get the directive quashed as the Centre’s move amounted to interference with the judicial process.

Despite reservations expressed by Vajpayee and Singh, the hawks headed by Fernandes and backed by others, including those from the Advani camp, are sticking to their demand as was evident from the deliberations at today’s NDA meeting.

Law minister Arun Jaitley, who had advocated tough action yesterday, appeared to have mellowed down, if the version given by a team led by Tamil Nadu law minister C. Ponnaiyan is any indication.

Another reason for the cautious approach is that the Telugu Desam has not yet committed its support to the President’s rule. Though Desam chief Chandrababu Naidu has condemned the arrests, the Desam, sources said, has not diluted its opposition to the use of Article 356.

Ponnaiyan, who called on Jaitley today and handed over the “uncensored” video tapes of the events during the arrest of Karunanidhi, was all praise for Jaitley.The ADMK leader said: “He (Jaitley) has been an eminent lawyer of the country.”

Lathicharge at jail

Police lathicharged a mob that had gathered at the gates of the Chennai Central Jail when Desam MP Yerran Naidu tried to enter the prison to meet Karunanidhi, adds our special correspondent from Chennai.

   

 
 
VIDEO WAR UNFOLDS BEFORE PRESIDENT 
 
 
FROM KAY BENEDICT
 
New Delhi, July 2: 
Jayalalitha has sent videotapes of the midnight arrest to President K.R. Narayanan to prove that the Governor was sacked on the basis of “fabricated” tapes shown on Sun TV, a channel owned by M. Karunanidhi’s family.

The tapes show Union ministers Murasoli Maran, who is also Karunanidhi’s nephew, and T.R. Baalu trying to prevent police officers from arresting the former chief minister.

Maran, whose son owns Sun TV, is seen trying to hit a DIG and using “vulgar language” while Baalu is on camera threatening the police, “shouting” that “I am a Union minister” and “it is my order”.

Tamil Nadu law minister C. Ponnaiyan, who led a delegation to the President today, said the Sun TV shots of Karunanidhi “crying with a plea to save his life” were doctored. “The proxy voice uttered falsely in Sun TV is that of the second son of Murasoli Maran,” he said. Karunanidhi had only uttered the words: “Ayeo, ayeo”.

Ponnaiyan alleged that Maran’s family members had started pulling and pushing Karunanidhi and, in the melee, the DMK chief lost his balance and was about to fall when a police officer caught him. Sun TV had censored these incidents and also left out shots of Maran forcefully occupying the car meant to take Karunanidhi to the magistrate, the ADMK leader said. Maran had to be physically removed.

The law minister said anyone who took law into their hands could be booked. “If the Prime Minister hits someone or, for that matter, the President, ministers, MPs, MLAs or the common man, no immunity is given to law violators,” Ponnaiyan said.

Asked why the state government did not bring the tapes earlier, he said: “It was not our camera, it was a police camera and police take their own time.” On whether the delay had cost Governor Fathima Beevi her job, he said: “It is our worry also.”

The 14-member team, which included ADMK parliamentary party leader P.H. Pandiyan and former Union law minister M. Thambidurai, also called on Union law minister Arun Jaitley and handed over the video footage.

Ponnaiyan said the team would try to meet Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and home minister L. K. Advani tomorrow.

Before leaving for Rashtrapati Bhavan, Ponnaiyan said the team would tell the President that “the action of the Central government in recalling the Governor is unfortunately based on the notoriously fabricated and concocted Sun TV revelations.”

He claimed that Karunanidhi was cooperative when police reached his residence to arrest him but Maran, his second son and a few relatives arrived soon after and obstructed the police.

Asked why Karunanidhi was arrested at midnight, the law minister said Tamil Nadu was a politically volatile state and arresting him during the day would have triggered a law and order problem as DMK volunteers would have tried to stop the police.

The DMK, which is part of the ruling National Democratic Alliance, today sought the Prime Minister’s immediate intervention in the “serious situation” prevailing in Tamil Nadu.

“The arrest of thousands of DMK volunteers and other allied parties is going on unabated.... The arrest of more than 50,000 people has resulted in overcrowding in the jails and they are suffering from lack of food, water, toilet facilities and medical aid,” DMK general secretary K. Anbazhagan said in a letter to Vajpayee.

   

 
 
LEFT IN AMMA’S BEAR HUG 
 
 
FROM MONOBINA GUPTA
 
New Delhi, July 2: 
Not so long ago, Left leaders were gushing with friendliness towards ADMK chief Jayalalitha, a prospective alliance partner in People’s Front. But the last two days’ worried frowns have replaced the smiles.

The Left leadership is caught in a cleft over the sordid developments in Tamil Nadu. “Defending” Jayalalitha against corruption charges was apparently easier than defending her latest fiat which led to the roughing up of senior DMK leaders in Tamil Nadu.

“Our allies may just sink us,’’ said a Left leader. “There is absolutely no defence for the manner in which former DMK chief minister M. Karunanidhi and Union ministers Murasoli Maran and T.R. Baalu were arrested.’’

However, this does not mean that Jayalalitha and her party have lost all attraction as a potential partner for the Left-led People’s Front. The Left is not having to look very hard for “political reasons” that would require them to come to the succour of Jayalalitha against an “inimical’’ Centre.

“The CPI warns the Vajpayee government not to consider using Article 356 or any other provision for interfering in Tamil Nadu,’’ says a CPI statement.

Yesterday, the Left parties had shot off a statement condemning the “undemocratic” and “unwarranted’’ recall of Tamil Nadu Governor Fathima Beevi. Today, they are more aggressive against the NDA government and have put its leader George Fernandes in its direct line of fire. “Who is George Fernandes to intervene in Tamil Nadu?’’ asks CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan.

The Left has not had much luck with its partners in the south. During the days of the United Front government, Karunanidhi’s DMK and Chandrababu Naidu’s Desam were pillars of the federal front. The first pillar collapsed when the Desam quit the front and moved over to the NDA. Later, it was the DMK which fell foul with the Left and switched over to the NDA. Like with Naidu, the Left’s relations with the DMK and Karunanidhi have.only worsened since the time they parted ways.

The pendulum of alliances for the Left in Tamil Nadu has swung from one end to the other from the DMK to the ADMK. The entire political strategy of the third front led by the Left is: it should have an alliance partner against the BJP and the NDA in as many states as possible.

   

 
 
MAGNITUDE DAWNED ON US LATER: POLICE CHIEF 
 
 
FROM SUJAN DUTTA
 
Chennai, July 2: 
Tamil Nadu police are all but sorry for the events of Friday night because “we did not realise the magnitude of the issue”, director-general of police A. Ravindranath said here this evening.

The police released a video footage yesterday and another one this morning that showed Karunanidhi at first cooperating with the team led by DIG Mohammed Ali and then a scuffle breaking out after Union commerce and industries minister Murasoli Maran hit out with his right hand. It is not absolutely clear where the blow landed but a policeman is seen, for milliseconds, pressing a handkerchief to his face.

Since the early hours of Saturday, Sun TV, patronised by the DMK and Tamil Nadu’s most-viewed television channel, went on air with footage that showed Karunanidhi being dragged, Maran being bodily lifted and Union minister T.R. Baalu in a scuffle with policemen. The police came out with its own footage only last evening in a belated attempt at damage control.

Asked why it took so long, Ravindranath said: “The magnitude of what had happened was realised only after the Central team came.”

Ravindranath said he had explained to the home ministry team led by special secretary M.B. Kaushal the sequence of events. “There was no beating of anybody. We did not use any abusive language. We went to Oliver Road (Karunanidhi’s house) first and from there we took him to Admiralty House. The fact that we allowed the Sun TV cameraman to take pictures proves that we did not have any ill intention. The magnitude of the issue dawned on us later. Let me tell you clearly, we have not doctored anything, if that is the suspicion behind our late reaction. You take it from me the videotape (released by us) is not doctored.”

Asked why did the police go for the arrest in the dead of night, Ravindranath said: “We do that to avoid law and order problems in the daytime. Normally, no private newspaper or media would be allowed when we go for such an operation. But we allowed Sun TV and had any other photographer been there, he would have been allowed, too. We have nothing to hide. The police has actually done a wonderful job. Please give it a small clean chit.”

Ravindranath said Karunanidhi was perceived to have been dragged by policemen, who were actually helping him after a push — deliberate or accidental — from Union minister Maran made him lose his balance. “Karunanidhi was about to fall down when my officer Mohammed Ali helped him to a chair. Rajarthi Ammal — Karunanidhi’s wife — thought her husband was hurt and therefore a policewoman was trying to control her. Unless our hands were clean we would not have allowed in the Sun TV photographer.”

In Ravindranath’s version, the only chink in the police’s armour is the time it took to react and go public with footage of its own. “Look at my men. The constables, many of them just matriculates, behaved in an exemplary fashion. My people behaved with tremendous restraint. We are late, but better late than never.”

The director-general of police said the bandh called by the DMK and its NDA partners today had failed. “I would like to express my gratitude to the people of the state who have cooperated to make this bandh a total flop.”

Across Chennai, business establishments were closed in the dawn-to-dusk bandh. Traffic on the streets was much less than that on a normal working day.

   
 

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