Echoes of Taliban in Buddha backyard
No seat in any college & a big hole in your pocket
Heart haven for Tagore town
Sadhus sing different temple tune
Unhappy BJP rejects ban on parivar forces
Discovery of digital world
Whiff of selective House vandalism
RSS seeks Bangla refugees’ state
Carpets come under hammer
BJP skirts Jaya raids

 
 
ECHOES OF TALIBAN IN BUDDHA BACKYARD 
 
 
FROM SUNANDO SARKAR
 
Dogachhia (Midnapore), March 17: 
From a distance, the village looks like any other in Keshpur, the area that once fought its way to the state’s political map. But scratch its surface and it will tell a very different tale. Its residents laugh and smile — and some have started smoking, much against the village elders’ advice — but that’s about all.

Shades of the Taliban routed in Afghanistan last year, as neighbouring villages claim? Or a “model” village, the status its own residents would prefer, never mind the absence of any constitutional provision?

Welcome to Dogachhia, perhaps the only teetotalling village in Bengal. Microphones are banned. Music has never been heard within the confines of the village, so the West Bengal Pollution Control Board can take a long nap. Wedding parties have never been seen; sons-in-law are welcome, but the baraat must not make a song and dance of the whole thing. And addiction, to a dyed in the wool Dogachhia resident, means having the daily cuppa everyday.

This has been life in Dogachhia for the past hundred years. And may be so for the next hundred years.

Sheikh Budha of Habibpur, around 30 km away, did not know that when he came visiting the family of Samirannisa — his bride from Dogachhia — a week after their marriage around 20 years back. He came drunk. The result: he was driven out of the village by Samirannisa’s neighbours; and it was Samirannisa who led the assault. Budha went back to his Habibpur home without a wife.

“No, I have not rued the decision,” a much older Samirannisa said. “We did what we should have done,” she added, a few days after Sheikh Wahed of Panskura came visiting his in-laws with his recently-wed bride from Dogachhia, Ashtiya Khatoon.

Wahed, however, was wiser. He admitted having heard about Dogachhia in Panskura, some 40 km away. He knew how things were at Dogachhia, pointing out the modest entourage which did not break into a single tune or the simplest of jigs as it turned into the unmetalled village road from the road linking Midnapore town with Keshpur.

This Muslim-only, no-alcohol-ganja-charas village of over 3,000 men, women and children, however, sees nothing talibani in the set of rules that have governed it since anyone can remember.

“The Taliban in Afghanistan came a hundred years after us,” Shamsun Naha, former panchayat pradhan and wife of present panchayat chief Sheikh Tamijuddin, explained.

Village elder Nasir Khan, too, would not have anything of the Taliban-tag attached to Dogachhia by neighbouring villages like Ayodhyanagar and Keshpur. The tag meant nothing to him, he said. What is more important is that the village has not had any record of crime since he can remember. “And this village was an oasis of peace when the rest of Keshpur was burning,” he added.

There is another thing Dogachhia is proud of: it has a large number of centenerians. Sultan Khan, Rabiul Hossain, Idris Ali Khan and Heqa Ali all died over the past few months but every one of them lived to be over 100. Feqa Mallik and Ayesha Khatoon are the present centenarians and Sheikh Noor Mohammad and Kulsuma Bibi look set to join the gang.

But Dogachhia — or the half above 30 — is worried. Things are not looking good for the no-music-no-alcohol-no-dance-no-mike brigade, says Khan. “The young boys have started smoking,” he rued. “They still do it out of our eyesight,” he said but admitted that the control the maulvis had in the past had slackened.

Things had never looked so “bad”, Khan said, echoing the village elders. Dogachhi could become “just another village” before it got the “model village” status, he said, explaining that the tag was necessary for “good roads, cheaper fertilisers, street-lights and more loans”.

   

 
 
NO SEAT IN ANY COLLEGE & A BIG HOLE IN YOUR POCKET 
 
 
BY BAPPA MAJUMDAR
 
Calcutta, March 17: 
If you have noticed an ad in the papers promising enterprising students “direct admission” into MCA, MBA, BBA and other courses and have decided to apply, think twice. You just might end up without a seat in any institute and a large hole in your pocket.

That’s what has happened to Shikha Majumder and several others who raced to respond to an ad put out by Calcutta-based Cyrus Marketing Pvt Ltd promising admission into reputed institutions in Bangalore, Pune and other cities. They are now racing to police, hoping they will get their lost lakhs back.

The city and state police and the CID have zeroed in on the firm — earlier called Cirrus Marketing and Consultancy Pvt Ltd — which has allegedly cheated clients of several lakhs by failing to provide them admission. The company changed its name from Cirrus to Cyrus to avoid prosecution, a senior police official said.

Company director Debajyoti Ghosh and his father, Dipen Ghosh — both first arrested in 2000 and subsequently freed on bail — are facing five cases for cheating people in Calcutta and New Delhi to the tune of several lakhs.

Debajyoti was first arrested by Gariahat police on August 5, 2000, (case 201) in connection with a complaint lodged by A.K. Bannerjee alleging he had paid Cirrus Marketing Rs 19.5 lakh but was unable to recover it. The case is still going on though Debajyoti and his father were freed on bail.

The father-son duo were arrested again by the detective department on September 18, 2000, in connection with a similar case lodged at Lake police station (case number 276 and 277/28/08/2000).

Complainants Shikha Majumder and Basabi Banerjee alleged they had together paid the company Rs 2.64 lakh, hoping their children would get direct admission into reputed colleges in south India.

“How were we supposed to know that they would cheat us? They sounded very convincing,” Banerjee said in her statement.

The police gathered enough evidence against the twosome and filed a chargesheet against principal accused Debajyoti. In both cases, Dipen — an employee of a reputed Central government company — applied for anticipatory bail, but his pleas were rejected.

Even as the detective department felt they had unearthed most of the racket, Jadavpur police sought the remand of the duo for cheating Sarmistha Das of Rs 1 lakh (case 327) with the same promise.

“We made considerable headway in the case and have filed chargesheet against both Debajyoti Ghosh and his mother, Shibani Ghosh,” a senior official of Jadavpur police station said.

This was not all. Some time later, officers of Chanakyapuri police station in Delhi landed up in Calcutta hot on the family’s trail.

They sought Debajyoti’s remand in Delhi in connection with a cheating case lodged by Colonel D.S. Dhaiya, who allegedly paid him Rs 46,000 to get his child admitted to a reputed college.

Speaking to The Telegraph, Shibani Ghosh, Debajyoti’s mother, said: “All the cases lodged against us are fictitious and is the handiwork of our enemies. If we had cheated people, we would have fled already.

“This is an absolutely false allegation. Our company is clean and even the CID official who came here yesterday for scrutiny of our papers seemed satisfied.”

Debajyoti’s mother continued: “We have returned most of the money to the clients whom we failed to provide admission.”

Speaking from his Bangalore office, Debajyoti said: “Last year, when I wanted to turn my company to a private limited company from a partnership firm, I was told by registration of companies officials that Cirrus was already a registered company, so I opted for Cyrus marketing.

“We provide value-added service to the society and our records are there for everyone to see. Whatever, has been lodged against me are mere allegations, which has not been proved so far,” he said.

   

 
 
HEART HAVEN FOR TAGORE TOWN 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Bolpur, March 17: 
Plans are afoot to set up a 100-bed speciality heart hospital in Bolpur-Santiniketan. The cardiac centre will not just be a boon for residents of the area, which is becoming a haven for retired urbanites, but will also serve people in the hinterland as well.

A meeting was held recently to discuss the phased implementation of the Rs 13-crore project, conceived and spearheaded by Goodwill Mission, a Calcutta-based NGO.

Co-chaired by Bolpur CPM MP Somnath Chatterjee and Visva Bharati vice-chancellor Sujit Basu, the meeting was attended by district Trinamul Congress president Shushobhan Banerjee, superintendent of the Bolpur subdivisional hospital Manabendra Ghosh, other senior local functionaries as well as trustees of the mission.

“Coronary artery disease has ominous portents. By the end of the decade, the incidence of the problem is expected to take on epidemic proportions in the rural areas as well,” pointed out mission chairman Asish Dutta Chowdhury.

“Measures will have to be taken to help tackle such a situation. The city has several hospitals and doctors. But a super speciality centre in a rural town such as this will help in the prevention and treatment of heart problems for people of the region,” he added.

At present, “as many as 30 residents of the area travel every day to Calcutta to get basic diagnosis and treatment of heart problems,” said Banerjee, who is also a general practitioner based in Bolpur. “The need for such a centre here definitely exists,” corroborated Ghosh. Several well-known personalities, including the late singer Kanika Banerjee, have had to take the four-hour journey to the city.

The meeting discussed the nitty gritty of the project, including number of skilled and unskilled manpower, salaries and accommodation, equipment procurement, capital and running costs, time-bound implementation and fund-raising.

It was decided that the first phase of the project, that of periodically holding speciality clinics to diagnose and prescribe treatment, would begin soon. To be attended by cardiologists from the Rabindranath Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences, these clinics would have facilities for ECG and echocardiograph examinations.

The first camp will be held on March 24 at the SDO office premises. Subsequent clinics will be held at the Red Cross building in Bolpur town.

In the second phase, an out-patient department and a six-bed intensive coronary care unit (ICCU) will be established.

   

 
 
SADHUS SING DIFFERENT TEMPLE TUNE 
 
 
FROM ANAND SOONDAS
 
Lucknow, March 17: 
Senior sadhus and VHP leaders appear to have changed strategy in the face of mounting protests by residents against restrictions and unhappiness of Ayodhya’s hardcore temple supporters at being “misled”.

VHP working president Ashok Singhal went on an indefinite fast today demanding that curbs be lifted on the movement of pilgrims in the temple town. In a desperate bid to show that he has not “compromised” either on the mandir movement or the “interests of kar sevaks”, Singhal asked for security at Karsevakpuram where the Purna Ahuti Yagna continues.

Singhal also demanded a written assurance from the government that kar sevaks taking part in the yagna will be “well protected”.

The VHP leader was on Friday jeered and heckled by kar sevaks angry at what they saw as a “compromise”.

The nearly 1,000 kar sevaks who had gathered at the Digambar Akhada were furious that they would not be led to the disputed site for shila daan and puja as was promised earlier.

Both the programmes were held at the akhada, the seat of Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas chief Ramchandra Das Paramhans, barely half a kilometre from the karyashala and about 2 km from the disputed site.

Paramhans today threatened that the land acquired by the government would be “taken by force” if the Centre did not hand it over to the Nyas. The construction of the Ram temple will begin sometime this year and is expected to be complete in five years, he added.

Maintaining that the efforts to build up a temple frenzy had not been blunted by sympathisers of Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee within the RSS and the VHP, Paramhans said: “Nothing has been lost. The government has acknowledged our demands by accepting the shilas. Our efforts to build the temple would continue with more fervour.’’

But Paramhans was hopeful that the government would hand over the acquired land to the Nyas on its own. “There is no problem legally.’’ A confrontation could be averted if the government acts sensibly, he added.

Paramhans said he was satisfied with the Prime Minister’s efforts to resolve the crisis. “He (Vajpayee) has been quite sincere.”

Singhal’s hunger strike follows the Uttar Pradesh Governor’s assurance that curbs on movement across Ayodhya would be lifted from today.

Movement in the town was considerably eased today and normality seemed to be returning with small batches of Ram sevaks trooping in, reports PTI.

Kanchi Sankaracharya Jayendra Saraswathi has also asked the Centre and the Uttar Pradesh government to reduce the level of security in Ayodhya to enable free movement of people.

   

 
 
UNHAPPY BJP REJECTS BAN ON PARIVAR FORCES 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Chennai, March 17: 
The BJP today denounced Sangh parivar forces, including the VHP and the Bajrang Dal, for yesterday’s unprecedented vandalism at the Orissa Assembly, but said a ban on the outfits was no solution.

The party was unhappy over the Orissa incidents after the Ayodhya crisis was defused and demanded that those responsible should be brought to book, party leader and Union rural development minister M. Venkaiah Naidu said at a press conference here today.

Asserting that the BJP condemned “anyone forcefully entering the Assembly premises anywhere”, the minister, however, disagreed that the urgency to ban the VHP and Bajrang Dal had increased with the volunteers of these organisations running amok in the Orissa Assembly complex.

“Is a ban on the VHP the solution?” Naidu asked. “We don’t agree with the VHP on certain issues, but I do not think a ban will help.”

The BJP leader explained that such a move would entail the government to ban several other organisations as well.

The run-up to the March 15 Ayodhya developments had the potential of creating a “major national crisis, social as well as political”, said Naidu.

He added that a possible confrontation was averted because of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s “masterly tact, firmness and sensitivity” in defusing the crisis, assisted by home minister L.K. Advani and others.

On the “symbolic puja”, the Union minister underlined that the “legitimate sentiments” of the Ram mandir movement was respected without affecting the Supreme Court’s interim order.

Naidu saw nothing wrong in a Central government representative receiving a “carved pillar” from the mahant outside the acquired land in Ayodhya.

Taking exception to Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s remarks that the government had yielded to the VHP’s “blackmail”, Naidu said it did not behove the status of the Opposition leader in the Lok Sabha to have used the expression.

Pointing out that “history should not be forgotten”, Naidu said it was the earlier Congress government led by Rajiv Gandhi which had permitted the shilanyas at Ayodhya in 1989 and also allowed the unlocking of the temple door.

Sonia’s remarks exposed the “duplicity of the Congress” on the issue, he argued.

The minister reiterated that the NDA government was for the “rule of law” and not for allowing anything in the disputed area at Ayodhya without a negotiated settlement or a court order.

The BJP leader said all political parties in consultation with religious leaders had the responsibility to find a quick, negotiated and permanent solution to the Ayodhya tangle.

Even as there was peace in Ayodhya and elsewhere in the country now, Naidu said there was “unrest only in the minds” of the Opposition parties.

They, including the Congress and the Left, were “dreaming of a political destabilisation” over the issue, but their “doomsday prediction” had proved wrong, the minister added.

   

 
 
DISCOVERY OF DIGITAL WORLD 
 
 
CHANDRIMA BHATTACHARYA
 
March 17: 
Deham is set in the year 2002 in Mumbai. Its vision of the future is bleak: the film has a jobless youth selling his organs one after the other to a multinational organisation to keep his family going.

But the movie is futuristic not only because it talks of a time when technology could make the selling of human organs easy and commercial.

In Deham, Govind Nihalani’s latest venture, digitalised sets replace “real” ones. The film also has 23.5 minutes of visual effects, a first for an Indian film.

It makes sound business sense. “The digitalised production costs around Rs 50 lakh. If these parts were shot entirely on film, the cost would have been four times more,” says Ramesh Meer of The FX Factory that did the special effects. He was speaking at Frames 2002, Ficci’s convention on entertainment.

Like Meer, many industry people feel that cost-effective digitalisation, as in Deham, is inevitable in the film industry.

Much of Deham, featuring Kittu Gidwani and Aly Khan, is “shot” in “sets” that look like they were inspired by Matrix.

In reality, the scenes were shot in blank sets, with nothing except walls and floors covered in green cloth. The only “real” element was the human actor.

In Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, many scenes were specially treated. But Deham has the longest stretch of digital special effects that made for entire scenes.

“It is much cheaper. It allowed the film to be shot on a shoestring budget,” says Meer.

Nihalani, who made the film based on Manjula Padmanabhan’s play Harvest, said it was possible to shoot the film on a small budget because of the technology.

Not only festival-circuit films — Deham, to be released next month, has just won an award at a Swedish film festival — but technology is replacing hard work on the sets of mainstream films, too, for practical reasons.

In Aks, technology may not have saved money. But a recent film, Yeh Mohabbat Hai, used a cost-effective digitally-produced fire by The FX Factory in an action scene.

Aashiq has Johnny Lever “shortened” — “his head and the trunk were stitched together on the computer,” says Meer — with technology.

Digital special effects are only the tip of the iceberg, many feel.

Senthil Kumar of Real-Image, Chennai, says the film industry is poised on the brink of the next big thing — digital cinema.

Digital cinema will free movies from celluloid — shooting will be done on the HDTV (high-resolution television) format.

Kumar says it will cut down production costs enormously. He adds that digital cinema would have taken off earlier but the cost of the equipment is prohibitive.

However, he adds that there will be six to seven digital films all over the country that will kick off by this year.

   

 
 
WHIFF OF SELECTIVE HOUSE VANDALISM 
 
 
FROM DEBABRATA MOHANTY
 
Bhubaneswar, March 17: 
A day after Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal activists vandalised the Orissa Assembly, chief minister Naveen Patnaik promised exemplary punishment for the perpetrators and cracked the whip on policemen in charge of security outside the House.

Nineteen policemen, including two deputy superintendents, were suspended for negligence. More police heads are likely to roll.

“I am deeply shocked. Certain action has been taken and more is on the cards. We are examining everything,” Patnaik said on his return from Delhi.

The chief minister went around the Assembly building with Biju Janata Dal legislators, inspecting shattered windowpanes, smashed flower vases, broken doors, and torn name-plates, as well as the smashed mirrors in his personal toilet.

The MLAs recounted the 25 minutes of horror to him.

The BJD legislator from Tirtol in Jagatsinghpur district, Debashis Samantray, had to say he was a BJP member and holler “Jai Sri Ram” to save his life as the trident and lathi-wielding mob accosted him. Samantray’s party colleague and the government’s chief whip Pradip Maharathy learnt that loyalty can sometimes be life threatening. He was assaulted by the rampaging mob.

“There is more to it than meets the eye,” Patnaik said.

The attackers did not venture towards Room No. 54, where a BJP Legislature Party meeting was on, BJD secretary-general Damodar Rout said. BJP state president Manmohan Samal and Union tribal welfare minister J. Oram were present at the meeting.

The mob was “selective” in its target, the MLAs told their leader.

Patnaik said he would announce, in the House tomorrow, more action against the guilty.

Earlier, at a meeting with the chief secretary, the director-general of police and the home secretary, the chief minister expressed unhappiness at the failure of the three-tier security ring around the Assembly. “It is disgusting. Such dastardly acts of vandalism by any organisation should be thoroughly condemned,” he said.

Legislators have demanded the suspension of the home secretary, the DGP and the Bhubaneswar superintendent of police for the security lapse.

The issue would be discussed in the Assembly tomorrow through an adjournment motion.

A decision on a judicial probe — demanded by many legislators — will be announced in the House, the chief minister said. The government had yesterday ordered an investigation by the state crime branch.

Khurda superintendent of police Arun Sarangi said more than 67 VHP and Bajrang Dal activists have been arrested and remanded in judicial custody on charges of rioting, arson, assault, trespassing and damage to government property. The arrested include Orissa Bajrang Dal president Bhuban Jena and VHP state chief Bipin Bihari Rath.

Patnaik said he has apprised Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and home minister L.K. Advani about the incident.

The Assembly attack is likely to create bedlam in Parliament tomorrow, reports our special correspondent in Delhi.

Under mounting criticism and facing demands for a ban, the VHP today made a half-hearted attempt at steering to the clear saying it “regretted” the incident. But at the same time, it said “pseudo-secular policies of people working in the political field have made the country’s youth restive”.

The CPM politburo today demanded action against “all perpetrators of this diabolic attack”. The attack exposes the fascist character of the VHP and the Bajrang Dal and their “antipathy to the democratic polity and institutions”, said a party statement.

   

 
 
RSS SEEKS BANGLA REFUGEES’ STATE 
 
 
FROM MONOBINA GUPTA
 
Bangalore, March 17: 
The RSS has taken up cudgels on behalf of those who have fled Bangladesh since Khaleda Zia’s party came to power, demanding that the Centre set up a “separate homeland for the Hindu refugees to live in honour and dignity” in that country.

The Sangh also found in the issue an opportunity to lash out at its ideological foe, the CPM, and the party-led West Bengal government.

“The West Bengal government’s refusal to grant permission to non-governmental organisations such as the Bastuhara Sahayata Samiti to open relief camps has added insult to injury,” a resolution passed by the RSS said.

“The unfortunate Hindus who have been forced to leave their homes are entitled to be recognised as refugees,” the resolution added.

Sangh spokesperson M.G. Vaidya had yesterday dwelt at length on the plight of the Bangladeshi refugees, which has emerged as one of the key themes at the RSS annual meeting.

The organisation has also found fault with the media, not just on how it covered the Godhra train attack but also the persecution of Hindus in Bangladesh.

“The media has not projected the horrors suffered by these refugees,” said the RSS’ national joint secretary Madan Das.

“It is much worse than what happened in Gujarat. Not a line has been written. And that is why we are angry,” the RSS leader added.

The organisation’s resolution demanded that the Hindus who have come to “Bharat be treated as refugees and get all the facilities accorded to them in the UN charter”.

The Sangh recommended economic sanctions against the Khaleda Zia government to “bring it to heel”.

“Tough measures like stopping the export of rice, potato, onion and meat from our country and temporarily stopping the flow of water from the Farakka Barrage should be taken to make the Bangladeshi government see some reason,” the resolution said.

The basic message sent out by the organisation was that the Hindus, basically tolerant, are being pushed to the margins in various states and it is time to “fight back”.

“Look how the Hindu population is being driven out from places like Bangladesh and Assam,” exhorted the RSS leader.

Vaidya had said yesterday that Hindus are peaceful and wherever they are a majority there is no trouble.

“Why is the Kashmir valley seething and not Jammu and Ladakh?” asked the RSS spokesperson.

“We are tolerant but intolerant of intolerance,” the RSS leader added.

   

 
 
CARPETS COME UNDER HAMMER 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, March 17: 
Bowrings, fine art auctioneers, is holding its second sale of paintings and works of art at Mumbai’s Oberoi Towers on Wednesday and Thursday.

The sale, which follows closely on the heels of Osian’s sale curated by Neville Tuli, has been divided into two parts. Both sections of the sale are bringing on the block lots worth Rs 3.5 crore each.

The first part of the sale will feature works of art, carpets and textile comprising beautiful Jamawar shawls. The highlights of the sale are the 100 pieces from M.S. Tanksalwalla’s collection. Tanksalwalla, who lived in Calcutta but was originally from Mumbai, was well-known for his collection of European and Oriental objets d’art and bric a brac.About 10 per cent of the sales proceeds will go to charity.

The carpets are Persian, Turkish, Afghan, Kashmiri. There are also some fine specimens of Agra and Jaipur jail carpets. The reserve price for a turn-of-the-century Agra carpet is placed between Rs 15.5 lakh and Rs 18 lakh. A Jaipur carpet has the reserve price of Rs 13 lakh.

The fine Kashans, perhaps because of the smaller sizes, have a reserve price of Rs 5.5 lakh upwards. Among the Jamawar shawls, there are many that were made for the French market in Napoleon’s time.

Asked about the strategy for the objets d’art sale, considering that these lots did not do well at the Delhi sale, Bowrings managing director Martin Graham said there were two differences in strategy this time. The new venue in Mumbai is expected to yield better results because of the larger number of collectors of such objects.

Besides, the much larger collection of fine and varied objects is likely to attract more serious attention. By holding the auctions on two different days, it will be easier to bring in the separate groups of committed collectors on each of the different days.

The sale of 176 lots of modern and contemporary Indian paintings, to be held on Thursday, has some distinguished works not often seen in the auction circuit. There are three lots of art deco style Indian mythological paintings by the Polish artist Stefan Norblin who painted for many princely patrons. There is also a rare and distinguished Nikolai Roerich painting.

   

 
 
BJP SKIRTS JAYA RAIDS 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Chennai, March 17: 
The BJP — careful not to offend either its ally, the DMK, or the ADMK — was cautious in its response today to Jayalalithaa’s crackdown on former DMK ministers.

In the third day of raids today, the state’s Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption targeted 32 residences in different parts of Tamil Nadu, beginning with that of former transport minister K. Ponmudi.

BJP leader M. Venkaiah Naidu evaded the issue at a news conference today, saying: “As a Union minister, I have no comments to make. The law must take its own course.”

He, however, added: “There should not be scope for any criticism of political vendetta. As long as things are done legally, they can be fought legally.”

“I leave it to the judgement of my state leadership,” the minister said, when asked to comment on the suspicion of the BJP’s Tamil Nadu unit that “political vendetta” was behind the raids.

After yesterday’s low-profile response, DMK leader M. Karunanidhi today came out with a stronger condemnation of the raids, saying they were meant to “defame and demoralise the party”.

TNCC president E.V.K.S. Elangovan and CPI leader R. Nallakannu echoed the DMK leader, saying the search operations would only shift the focus away from people’s issues.

The directorate is yet to put a figure on the value of the seizures made from the residences of former DMK ministers, including Ponmudi, Andiyur Selvaraj, Samyanallur Selvaraj, Suresh Rajan and N.K.K. Periyasamy.

At least three of these ministers, including Ponmudi, are very close to DMK youth wing leader M.K. Stalin. Samayanallur Selvaraj in Madurai and Kulandaivelu, on the other hand, find favour with Karunanidhi’s elder son, M.K. Azhagiri.

Directorate sources said many property-related documents, bank passbooks, locker statements and gold jewellery, besides cash were seized.

   
 

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