The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Terror law

Chennai, April 24: Two days after the Centre justified the Prevention of Terrorism Act in the Supreme Court as a “national necessity”, NDA allies in Tamil Nadu said the government’s views need not necessarily reflect people’s feelings.

The allies sought to put more pressure on the BJP by demanding “outright repeal” of the law even as the DMK called for a state-specific law to tackle militancy in some “special border states”.

At the end of an all-party meeting called to discuss the anti-terror law and the “dictatorial and repressive” measures of the ADMK regime, DMK chief M. Karunanidhi declared that the Centre “should revoke” the Act immediately.

But the confabulations turned out to be a tame affair with the Congress, the CPI and the CPM boycotting the meeting because of the DMK’s “dual stand” on being part of the BJP-led coalition and yet seeming to oppose it on issues like the terror law.

Karunanidhi said withdrawing the law was the only way to put a “full stop” to its “misuse… out of political vendetta” in states like Tamil Nadu, where MDMK chief Vaiko has been jailed under the Act.

Other parties that participated in the meeting included the PMK, the MDMK, the Puthiya Tamizhagam and the Chidambaram faction of the Congress. The state BJP was not invited.

Karunanidhi expressed surprise that major Opposition parties had stayed away. “Till last evening they all knew we are still in the NDA,” he said. The aim of the meeting, he added, was to finalise a statewide agitation plan against the Jayalalithaa regime’s “anti-people policies” and “anti-constitutional and illegal acts” in the light of the misuse of the anti-terror Act.

The latest to be charged under the law is Tamil journalist R.R. Gopal. The other immediate provocation was the arrest of Karunanidhi’s son M.K. Stalin for criminal trespass. Stalin was arrested for entering a women’s college to address agitating students.

But the absence of key Opposition parties poured cold water on the agitation plans. To a query, Karunanidhi said if the grouse of the Congress and the Left parties was “about our continuance in the NDA at the Centre, then they need not have egged us on to convene an all-party meeting”.

The meeting, however, adopted six resolutions, condemning various acts of the ADMK regime.

Karunanidhi referred to the April 22 meeting of Opposition parties in Delhi where it was decided to organise a nation-wide agitation against the anti-terror law. The former chief minister said the DMK and its allies in Tamil Nadu would see how this “development ripens” and then decide whether to join the agitation.

The DMK leader said MPs from Tamil Nadu, led by Union minister T.R. Baalu, had met Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee a few days ago and gave him a detailed account of the political arrests and the situation in the state. The Prime Minister, he added, had assured them that he would seek a report from the state.

Karunanidhi also did not rule out the possibility of meeting Vajpayee to seek the revocation of the anti-terror Act.

Karunanidhi parried a question on whether they would impress upon the Centre to issue a warning to the Tamil Nadu government under Article 355. “We have left the course of action to the Prime Minister,” was all that he said.

The all-party meeting also demanded that all defamation cases and privilege motions brought by the Jayalalithaa regime against various newspapers should be withdrawn.

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