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Monday, July 02, 2001



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`Murder of democracy, Constitution' -- NDA team for sterner action

Our Bureau


THE three-member NDA team led by Mr George Fernandes, former Defence Minister, has decided that the situation in Tamil Nadu calls for something more than the mere recall of the Governor.

According to Mr V.K. Malhotra, MP and BJP Vice-President, one of the team members, there is no option but to take recourse to Article 356. The whole country was shocked by the events, and it was a ``murder of democracy and the Constitution,'' he said.

The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Ms J. Jayalalitha, has ``created a Constitutional crisis'' by arresting the Cabinet Ministers, said Mr S.S. Dhindsa, Union Chemicals and Fertiliser Minister, another member of the team.

The team said that there had been a ``total breakdown of the Constitution in the State.'' Two Cabinet Ministers had been ``assaulted and arrested'' and a former Chief Minister ``assaulted and humiliated before being jailed,'' Mr Fernandes told a press co nference here on Sunday.

The team, which was here to assess the circumstances of the arrest of the Union Ministers, Mr Murasoli Maran, and Mr T.R. Baalu, and that of the former Chief Minister, Mr M. Karunanidhi, would submit its report to the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpa yee, on Monday, he said.

The team met Mr Maran, in his hospital room, where he is now under remand and called on Mr Karunanidhi, at the central prison, where he is lodged. The team was expected to meet the Governor, Ms Fathima Beevi, at Raj Bhavan, but decided not to do so becau se of the changed circumstances (the Union Cabinet deciding to recall the Governor).

Mr Fernandes said that the information received on Saturday had showed that Mr Karunanidhi was subjected to ``violence and humiliation.'' This morning, the team had met Mr Maran and heard from him the treatment the three had received, he said.

When asked to clarify on the team's proposed recommendation to the Centre to respond by more than recalling the Governor, Mr Fernandes said that in his personal opinion there had been a ``total breakdown of the Constitution in Tamil Nadu.'' Two Union Min isters had been beaten up and were in jail, and tomorrow this could happen to anybody. No Minister could set foot in another State, he said.

``If this was not a breakdown of the Constitution, I do not know what is,'' he wondered. Where the Constitution is not respected, one has to take action. The Chief Minister has created an atmosphere of ``total anarchy.'' Unless action is taken, the Const itution will be a joke and anarchy will prevail. The issue should now been seen as one of protecting the Constitution,'' he said.

When the Centre had asked for a report from the State Government on its actions, it had responded by calling for the dismissal of Mr Maran and Mr Baalu, and the Chief Minister had described them as ``street rowdies.'' The team does not see any ``middle p ath,'' he said.

Regarding the treatment meted out to the Union Ministers and Mr Karunanidhi, Mr Fernandes said that ``all norms of democratic behaviour have been thrown to the winds in the State. Members of a private television channel, Sun TV, have been personally thre atened. We do not just deplore the behaviour of the Government but also feel that this has to be ``rectified with all force the media and people can muster'' he said.

The meeting with Mr Maran and the information received earlier by tape and printouts ``give lie to the statement of the Chief Minister,'' he said. The tapes prove that violence was used by police against Mr Karunanidhi and the two Cabinet Ministers, he s aid.

The small cell where Mr Karunanidhi is confined solitarily is in the innermost part of the prison like a maximum security area. However, under the circumstances, Mr Karunanidhi was in good humour and was facing the situation with fortitude, he said.

The team had also visited Mr Karunanidhi's house from where he was arrested on Saturday. There were signs of a door having being knocked down and marks of police boots or the rifle butts. Bolts had been broken, telephone wires pulled out of the sockets a nd the instrument, Mr Fernandes said.

The team of officials from the Home Ministry will also be submitting its report tomorrow and the Cabinet will meet to consider the report, he said.

Picture: The former Defence Minister, Mr George Fernandes (right), and the Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilisers, Mr S.S. Dhindsa, talking to newspersons in Chennai on Sunday.

Picture by Bijoy Ghosh

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