The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tamil allies wince as UP curbs terror law

New Delhi, Aug. 31: Mulayam Singh Yadav’s rush to revoke the anti-terror law against Raghuraj Pratap Singh has rubbed salt into the wounds of the BJP’s Tamil Nadu allies who feel the coalition has done nothing to help MDMK chief Vaiko, jailed under the same law.

BJP chief M. Venkaiah Naidu, for instance, today refused to say much about Vaiko’s plight, but ruled out scrapping the law. “There may be some instances of misuse of this Act, but there is no question of removal of POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act),” he said.

Naidu said in Chennai that his party had already opposed the law’s “misuse” against Vaiko. He refused to elaborate because he said a committee had already been constituted to review the law. He also said the matter could not be discussed as it was before court. The Centre has filed an affidavit on the issue in the Supreme Court.

MDMK sources said the party — whose eight other leaders are also anti-terror law detainees — will now mobilise support among all MPs in Parliament for Vaiko’s release.

The situation contrasts with that in Uttar Pradesh, where new chief minister Mulayam Singh — whose coronation the BJP facilitated by not opposing it — has revoked the law slapped against Independent MLA Raghuraj Pratap and others by the Mayavati regime. The BJP had also allowed two MLAs of its ally Loktantrik Congress to join the Samajwadi Party bandwagon.

The MDMK has paid a heavy political price as Vaiko has languished in Vellore jail for the past 14 months after the Tamil Nadu government arrested him for publicly supporting the LTTE, an organisation banned in the country.

The party has virtually seized functioning as it has not organised any major rallies or public meetings since then. The cadre is getting restive without work and guidance, a source close to Vaiko said.

Union minister T.R. Baalu of the DMK had raised Vaiko’s incarceration at NDA meetings. All the BJP’s Tamil Nadu allies, including the PMK, had many times demanded the leader’s release in Parliament.

A delegation of these allies even secured the signatures of 301 MPs on a memorandum seeking to declare Vaiko’s arrest and detention a “gross misuse of the Act” and demanding his immediate release. The memorandum was submitted on August 14 to the review committee headed by Justice Arun Sahariya.

Of those who signed, 98 were from the BJP in the Lok Sabha and 21 from the Rajya Sabha and 15 from the CPM. Almost all parties signed up, except the Congress and the ADMK.

The memorandum said: “Every individual and every political party has sympathised with and supported Eelam Tamils in Sri Lanka who have been subjected to untold atrocities and gruesome genocide at one time or the other. To accuse Vaiko as one to be supporting terrorism on the ground of his verbal support to the cause of Eelam Tamils is far fetched and politically motivated.”

Vaiko’s speech had never abetted anyone to indulge in terrorism and so it did not attract the law, the memo said.

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