We, the undersigned, voice our stern protest against the arrest of MDMK leader, V. Gopalaswami (Vaiko), under the draconian law, POTA, by the Jayalalitha-led AIADMK Government of Tamil Nadu, and demand his immediate release.
This deplorable action by Jayalalitha reconfirms our earlier warnings that all obnoxious laws, once promulgated, will be used by the powers that be to settle scores against their political rivals. Although Vaiko, being part of BJP-led NDA at the Centre, had supported POTO in the Parliament, his becoming the first MP to be held under POTA is a repetition of history during the 1975-77 Emergency. When the equally draconian Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA) was promulgated by Mrs. Indira Gandhi in 1971 with the avowed intention of curbing Naxalite violence, all those who supported it – ranging from then Congress Working Committee Member, S. Chandrasekhar, then Congress Parliamentary Party Secretary, (late) Ram Dhan, to present rulers of BJP — were arrested under MISA during the 1975-77 Emergency.
Vaiko’s arrest under POTA cannot be justified since he had only reiterated his political stand of long years on the Tamil nationality issue and liberation struggle in a foreign country, Sri Lanka. Like Vaiko, the present Defence Minister George Fernandez was on record to term the Tamil issue in Sri Lanka as a national liberation struggle. Mere sympathies and support to a national liberation struggle abroad can never be construed as an internal threat to India. During the British period, the Indian National Congress under Mahatma Gandhi had supported the liberation struggle in China. During Indira Gandhi’s regime, the whole of India supported the Bengali national liberation struggle of “Mukti Bahini” under late Mujibur Rehman in East Pakistan and created the present Bangladesh after the 1971 war with Pakistan. Since 1948, India has been supporting the cause of Palestinians for their homeland from Israeli occupation, which cannot be construed as an anti-national activity within India despite our establishing diplomatic ties with Israel in 1991. As such, there cannot be any stigma attached only against the Tamil nationality question in Sri Lanka which led to the arrest of Vaiko yesterday.
Vaiko’s arrest under POTA for his pro-LTTE speech is more deplorable since the present Sri Lanka Government is taking positive steps with Norwegian intermediaries for negotiated settlement of all issues with the LTTE. There is, therefore, no meaningful purpose to continue with the ban of LTTE only in India.
Vaiko’s arrest serves as a grim reminder to the ruling BJP, who initiated POTA with the avowed intention of curbing terrorism in Kashmir. Despite POTA, unabated violence continues in Kashmir and even a prominent Hurriyat leader, Abdul Ghani Lone, was killed by unknown gunmen.
We also condemn the narrow political approach adopted by Congress Party, who opposed POTO in Parliament, but supported Vaiko’s arrest under POTA. The CPI-M leader, Prakash Karat, said that Vaiko had to face POTA for supporting a “terrorist body” like LTTE, despite the fact that CPI-M was the ally of Vaiko’s MDMK in Tamil Nadu till four years ago. Like BJP, both these leading opposition parties forget the fact that any draconian law will only be used by fascists and dictators like Jayalaliatha against their political opponents, apart from suppressing the ordinary masses waging struggle for their basic rights of minimum survival.
Mukundan C. Menon
Secretary General (CHRO)
Dr. Abdul Salam
Prof. K. M. Bahauddin Retd.
Pro-Vice-Chancellor & CHRO Patron
Dr. P. Muraleedharan
K. S. Srijith Kumar
Brother Reni George
July 12, 2002