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February 4, 2000
Schools and colleges ordered shut in Tamil Nadu
N Sathiya Moorthy in Madras
The Tamil Nadu government today ordered an inquiry by the crime branch of the criminal investigation department of the state police into Wednesday's incident in Dharmapuri where three college girls were burnt to death by a mob that set their bus alight in protest against former chief minister J Jayalalitha being sentenced to a year's rigorous imprisonment for corruption.
Thus, it appears that the state government of Chief Minister M Karunanidhi has decided to turn down Jayalalitha's demand for an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation.
Jayalalitha, general secretary of the opposition All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, had also threatened to move the courts if her demand was not accepted.
The CB-CID inquiry was ordered on a day when educational institutions across the state remained closed on the orders of the state government.
Though the government claimed to have ordered schools and colleges shut to mourn the three girls, sources said it was a precautionary measure, to let tempers on the campus cool over a longer weekend.
Students of colleges in Coimbatore, where the slain girls were studying in the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, have been asked to stay home even on Monday and Tuesday. Hostellers have been asked to vacate, and told to return only after confirming the reopening date on the phone.
In many towns, big and small, students cutting across party lines took out silent processions and protest marches throughout today, mostly led by students affiliated to the ruling DMK or the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the student wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
Stray non-political organisations also joined the fray, with those like the Tamil Nadu Telugu Association demanding the immediate arrest and prosecution of Jayalalitha for the death of the girls.
But the government has reacted cautiously so far. Karunanidhi told reporters that AIADMK volunteers were behind the acts of violence that followed the verdict against Jayalalitha. But he was careful not to commit himself on the Dharmapuri case. With the matter having been handed over to the CB-CID, he obviously did not want to be accused of trying to influence the police investigation.
For her part, Jayalalitha has blamed DMK-inspired anti-social elements for the gruesome murder and charged a section of the local media with trying to link it to the verdict against her. She has also threatened to take legal action against these newspapers.
Jayalalitha also announced an ex-gratia relief of Rs 50,000 to the family of party worker Arumugam of Villuppuram district, who immolated himself after her conviction, and appealed to others not to resort to such extreme acts.
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