Chennai, March 29: The DMK today kicked off a fast by Opposition parties to press for the release of MDMK chief Vaiko and Tamil nationalist leader P. Nedumaran, arrested under the anti-terror legislation, saying it was time the NDA government at the Centre “withdrew” the anti-terror law “in toto”.
“At heart, we never really wanted” the anti-terror legislation to be in the statute book but “were driven by circumstances to support the Bill in Parliament last year”, said DMK chief M. Karunanidhi. He lamented that deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani’s assurance that the Centre would guard against misuse of the law by the states to settle political scores has proved hollow.
The DMK initiative clearly shows a desire to wriggle out of the NDA and to appease another NDA ally, the MDMK. Inaugurating the fast near the Valluvar Kottam here, Karunanidhi said Tamil Nadu was a clear case of the “dangerous misuse” of the anti-terror law for political vendetta. Likening the law to a knife a man brought home for household use and the situation in the state to his little son taking it up to stab his wife, Karunanidhi said the “shocked father” would be forced to “take back the knife”. Similarly, the Centre should rescind the anti-terror legislation.
The charges slapped under the law on both Vaiko and Nedumaran were flimsy, he said, adding that “they were put behind bars for a speech here and a speech there”. Karunanidhi, however, diplomatically did not mention the LTTE. The DMK patriarch added that the Jayalalithaa government “took pleasure in the pain of others” and so “she must be a sadist”.
Signalling to state CPI leader R. Nallakannu, present to express solidarity with the protesters, that the DMK will continue to bring together like-minded parties on this issue (his euphemism for further distancing the party from the NDA), Karunanidhi said Jayalalithaa should neither underestimate “Tamil sentiments” nor the fast.
People like Vaiko and Nedumaran were made of sterner political stuff that they could not be browbeaten into submission by “an autocratic regime”. “If necessary, I will launch a bigger agitation to get my brother Vaiko released, even if I have to go to jail in the process,” the DMK chief said.
The MDMK sounded far less strident when party Union minister M. Kannappan said though one would have to wait and see what the Advani-appointed committee to review the anti-terror law would achieve, its constitution showed that the Centre has “responded to our sentiments”.
Leaders of the PMK, another NDA ally, Congress Jananayaga Peravai led by P. Chidambaram, Dalit outfit Puthiya Tamizhagam and Muslim League factions were among those who joined the fast.
The CPM, The Congress and the BJP stayed away.