November 24, 2000


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The Rediff Interview/ Pazha Nedumaran

The Rediff Interview/ Pazha Nedumaran The Rediff Interview/ Pazha Nedumaran

Any reference to a likely 'deal' that clinched the release of Dr Rajakumar irritates P Nedumaran. "Please don't use that word," he says. The emissary clarifies ythere was no ransom paid and the LTTE was not involved in the kidnap.

Accused of being anti-national by S Balakrishnan of the TMC and a 'LTTE stooge' by Subramanian Swamy, Nedumaran's role in the kidnap saga has been mired in controversy. In his second interview to Shobha Warrier, he speaks about Veerappan, the Tamil Nadu Liberation Army, the biased 'Brahmin press' and the Union government.

In your first press conference after you came back from the forest, you said the Tamil Nadu and Karnataka governments should not start any commando operation to capture Veerappan. But the Tamil Nadu government has instructed the Special Task Force to start combing operations.What is your reaction to this decision?

It is unfortunate that at this juncture, the governments have decided to send the STF into the jungle. They should not have done so. See, there are so many charges against the STF. There was a commission set up to look into this. There is no doubt that the activities of the commission would be hampered by the presence of the STF in the jungle.

Is it not possible that those police personnel against whom charges are filed may not constitute the present STF?

It is possible but many scheduled tribes live inside the forest. Many villagers live outside the forest. And, the STF is camping in these villages only. They will harass the people now. How can we keep quiet? The STF was withdrawn from the villages in the past three, four months only, and the villagers were happy about it. The government should have waited until the enquiry commission's job was over.

Did the government's decision to send the commandos come as a surprise to you?

Yes, it was a surprise to me. I had already mentioned to the chief minister as the enquiry commission was going to start its work and the affected had to appear before the commission. When the STF is there, people will be scared to appear before the commission.

At the press conference, you gave the impression that you were more sympathetic to Veerappan than those affected by his deeds?

I never gave such an impression. What I want you to understand is, you can convert every criminal into a good human being. Why can't you give him general amnesty and help him become a better human being?

The Sarvodaya leader from Karnataka, Aswath Narayan, an old man of 80, came all the way from Bangalore to meet me here. He was a disciple of Vinobha Bhave and Jayaprakash Narayan. He went with them to the Chambal valley when many dacoits showed the willingness to surrender. He offered his services to meet Veerappan and help him change. What I want everyone to understand is that some people are working on that line. But by sending the STF now, you have spoiled the chance.

Veerappan has not done any anti-social activities for the last two years. What is the provocation now to send the STF?

Because he kidnapped four people.

It is over. The government has sent the STF now because some Opposition parties have raised a big hue and cry.

Is it not a crime to kidnap people? Shouldn't the police nab and punish him for what he has done?

All right, kidnapping is a crime. Then, let me ask. What action have you taken against the STF officers who have committed worst crimes? You have not taken any action against them. The government appointed the Sadasivam Commission to decide the compensation to be given to the victims. What does it mean? How did some people become victims if the STF did not commit any crime? You have accepted that this man is a victim. But who made him a victim?

But it all started with Veerappan, the criminal. The government sent the STF to the jungle because of Veerappan's criminal activities.

Action and reaction are equal and opposite. The STF committed atrocities on innocent people. Veerappan attacked them when they tried to capture him. All right, Veerappan has committed some crimes. But what have the innocent villagers done to deserve this? Have they committed any crime? The police arrested 90 people and all of them died in captivity.

Did you talk to the chief minister recently about the police atrocities?

Yes, we did. We have filed a petition with the CM. We also gave a list of the persons affected. My question is, now that you are getting ready to punish Veerappan, what action have you taken against the guilty officers? I am not protecting Veerappan or anybody else. I want to protect the innocent villagers who live in and around the forest.

Do you expect some of the villagers coming forward to help the STF nab Veerappan?

No. Nobody will volunteer to help the STF. Even if some of them come forward, it will only be out of fear.

When I talked to some retired police officers, all of them spoke about the need to win the confidence of the villagers to capture Veerappan.

But the reverse is happening. Punishing the innocent, threatening them... This will give only negative results.

You spoke about granting general amnesty to Veerappan. Did you ask him to surrender?

The question does not arise now. Ashok Narayana met me. At the all India level also, there are Sarvodaya leaders who are ready to meet Veerappan. I mentioned all this to Veerappan. He said he would meet them after everything was over. Now that the STF has started its operation, how can Ashok Narayana go and meet him? The Opposition parties say that I am anti-national. All right. What about Ashok Narayana? Is he also anti-national?

Earlier, Veerappan wanted amnesty. But now he is not talking about amnesty at all.

See, it cannot be done in a day or two. It is a slow process. You have to be very patient. Until then, everybody must co-operate.

In a joint statement by Veerappan and Maran, they said they were working for a Tamil Desam. Do you agree with such extreme views?

Their sentiments are similar to the various groups that are there in the northeast. These groups want independence from Mizoram, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, etc. The Indian government is talking to their representatives. India offered a ceasefire to the Kashmiri militants and wanted to talk to them too. In the same way, something must be done.

One can understand the presence of such extremist organisations in the northeast because they feel neglected. But Tamil Nadu is a peaceful and a comparatively prosperous state. How can you justify the presence of such extremist organisations here? In what way is Tamil Nadu neglected?

Yes, Tamil Nadu is peaceful. No doubt about that. But they wanted to exploit us.

You mean the Centre?

Not only the Centre. The Brahmins here are dead against Tamil and Tamilians.

But they are also Tamilians...

But they don't accept it. Ask any Brahmin here, he will never say he is a Tamilian. They oppose Tamil being taught in schools. They oppose Tamil as the medium of instruction in schools. They oppose Tamil as the official language. They oppose Tamil archana in our temples. They want only Sanskrit archana. Newspapers like The Hindu, Express etc are always against Tamil.

Does that mean the fight that 'Periyar' E V Ramaswamy Naicker started against Brahmins still continues?

This fight is going on for the last 2,000 years. The Brahmins of Tamil Nadu never identified with the Tamil culture or Tamil. They are always against us. But the Brahmins of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh consider themselves as Kannadigas and Telugus. Here in Tamil Nadu, they don't consider themselves as Tamils. They run Tamil magazines, but still don't say they are Tamils.

When Cho Ramaswamy opposed Tamil archana in temples, I asked him: "Why are you publishing the magazine Thuglaq in Tamil and selling it to the Tamils? Why are you not publishing it in Sanskrit?" This is the attitude of the Brahmins here. They consider themselves as the true representatives of the Centre. They want to dominate us.

But they form a small minority in Tamil Nadu.

They may be a minority but they are very powerful. The powerful press lobby is with them. Almost all the representatives of the newspapers published from Delhi, Calcutta and Bombay are Brahmins. So, the outside world hears only their voice, not ours.

You head a party that spreads Tamil nationalism when our nationality is Indian.

Everybody should feel proud about his/her mother tongue. There is a difference between a race and a nation. In India, there are people belonging to many races, like the Aryans, Dravidians, Mongoloids and so on. We have so many languages. Several nationalities live in Europe. The Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, etc belong to the Mongolian race but they live in different nations.

In India too, we have many languages. Will it not affect the unity of the country if we behave like Tamilians, Malayalis, Bengalis, etc, and not as Indians?

What we want is real unity. No domination of one nation over another. In our Constitution, 15 languages are accepted as national languages but the dominance is given only to Hindi. Why?

We want only three things to be vested with the Centre -- defence, foreign affairs and communication. The states should have all the other powers. Our Constitution is not a federal one, it is unitary. If more power is given to the states, India will remain united. But what is going on here? Instead of British imperialism, we see Delhi imperialism.

By using Article 356, the Centre can dismiss a state government elected by its people. It has no right to dismiss a state government as they are not nominated by the Centre. We cannot tolerate such things.

At the time of Independence, we had tall leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel, Subhas Chandra Bose and others. We never suspected their integrity. Even though Nehru belonged to Kashmir, he never behaved like a Kashmiri. He belonged to India. The same was the case with the other leaders too. Just because Advani sits in the place of Patel, he will not become a Patel. He is not a Patel at all. The powers used by Nehru should not be given to others. He used them in a democratic way. He was never partial.

You said although Nehru was a Kashmiri, he did not behave like a Kashmiri, he behaved like an Indian, and you are asking people to consider themselves as Tamilians. Don't you think today's leaders also should behave like Nehru?

Now, that era is over. We talk like a Tamilian or a Malayali because of the attitude of the Centre. I will give you an example. The Integral Coach Factory in Perambur in Tamil Nadu is one of the biggest in Asia. There was a plan for an extension of the factory in 1980. We already had land and other infrastructure for the expansion. We only had to invest Rs 500 crores so that the factory could produce another 150 coaches every year. They were producing 850 coaches at that time.

Bansi Lal was the then minister at the Centre and stopped the extension plan. Do you know why? He wanted to shift it to Haryana. We have no objection in investing in Haryana, but what he did spoiled the extension programme at Perambur. What happened then was, they had to invest Rs 2,000 crores in Haryana because they had to invest in infrastructure too. Was it not a waste of national money? He had no national interest at all. See, we are not anti-national. It is these kind of people who are anti-national.

Are things not changing now? For example, when Bill Gates was here, Chandrababu Naidu, S M Krishna and Digvijay Singh were canvassing for their own states.

Chandrababu Naidu or Karunanidhi have no powers. They are going with begging bowls to Delhi or Bill Gates. This is not the way to treat state governments. The state governments are treated like municipalities.

Unless we have a federal type of Constitution, India will slowly move the Soviet Union way. There is no doubt about that.

You said your party, the Tamil Nationalist Movement, is fighting the domination of Brahmins in the state and also that of Delhi. What is your ultimate aim?

We want power not only for the Tamils but also for all the states in India. We want self-recognition for all the nationalities in India.

How did the change take place in you? You were with the Congress, a national party at the beginning of your political career. Now, you have narrowed down your activities as leader of the Tamil nationalist movement.

That was because of bitter experiences. I was general secretary of the Tamil Nadu Congress. Indira Gandhi was president of the All India Congress Committee.

In 1979, she suddenly called the DMK to Delhi, had discussions with them and announced that the Congress was going to have an alliance with the DMK in Tamil Nadu. We were shocked to read the news in the newspapers! We rushed to Delhi and requested Mrs Gandhi not to do that. We asked her how could she take such a decision without consulting us? But she did not listen to us.

So, I decided to leave the party. At that time, my friend Moopanar, who was general secretary of the AICC, issued a statement against me. He said when the AICC president had taken a decision, who is this Nedumaran to question her? Then, they expelled me.

Finally, Moopanar also left the Congress due to the same reason.

After 17 years, he did the same thing! It took 17 long years for him to follow my footsteps! Why did Mamta Banerjee leave the Congress? Why did Bansi Lal leave and form his own party? Why did Laloo Prasad Yadav quit the Janata Dal to form his own party? Why did Mulayam Singh Yadav start his own party? All this happened because of the attitude of the leaders at the Centre.

The all-India parties are dividing now, and after sometime, there won't be any national parties. There is no Janata Dal now. The Congress is slowly fading. The same thing will happen to the BJP. What happened to the BJP in Gujarat and UP? National parties have no place at all in the future India.

Do we have any national leader or a national party now? All are regional leaders. The BJP is actually a regional party of the Hindi belt. All its leaders are regional leaders. Okay, Vajpayee is a national leader. Apart from him, we do not have a single national leader.

Let us go back to the kidnapping of Rajakumar. How did you manage to convince the Tamil extremist leaders who were with Veerappan?

Those youngsters respect me and listen to what I say. I told them that the Naxalites of Andhra Pradesh only kidnapped corrupt politicians and cruel police officials. So, when they kidnap such people, the general public supports them because everybody is against such people. But Dr Rajakumar is loved by all the people of Karnataka. "If something happened to Rajakumar, it would reflect on the Tamil minorities who lived in Karnataka." That was how I made them understand the situation.

If the government gives adequate time, we can convert them. But the government is in a hurry.

Do you think they are misguided youth?

Yes, they are misguided youth. There is no doubt about that. But they are our sons. We must approach them, sympathetically. We must tactfully do something and convert them.

Everybody suspects the LTTE played a role in the kidnap.

Only the Brahmin press is saying that. What role are you talking about? The LTTE is fighting against the Sri Lankan army in Sri Lanka. What is the connection between them and Veerappan? In what way will this help the LTTE?

From the beginning, Prabhakaran and the LTTE are clear about one thing -- they do not want to indulge in Indian politics. Prabhakaran was here for 3, 4 years. He never indulged in our politics. He wants the full support of India, irrespective of party, creed, religion, caste, etc.

Did he not talk about a greater Tamil Eelam that included Tamil Nadu too?

Never. It was the Narasimha Rao government that made these charges in order to ban the LTTE. In fact, we fought the case in court and won it. They could not prove the allegation in court, but they continued spreading such lies.

Dr Subramanian Swamy says Rs 26 crores was handed over to the LTTE in Delhi for Rajakumar's release.


And Cho Ramaswamy says the whole kidnap drama was plotted and well executed so that you would get good publicity.

What can I say about these wild charges? They are talking like this because I am a non-Brahmin. Let me ask you another question? Instead of Rajakumar, if Veerappan had kidnapped a Brahmin leader, what would be the attitude of people like Cho Ramaswamy and Subramanian Swamy? They would have come to my house! Because Rajakumar is a non-Brahmin, because Nedumaran is a non-Brahmin, because Veerappan is a non-Brahmin, they want to spread all kinds of lies against us.

Had Cho Ramaswamy been kidnapped by Veerappan, do you think Subramanian Swamy or The Hindu would have issued such statements or written editorials condemning me as the emissary? If Veerappan had kidnapped Cho Ramaswamy, the editorial would have been, 'Nedumaran must be sent as the emissary to get Cho Ramaswamy back!'


'I am helpless. After all, I am anti-national'
'They are innocent. We'll do everything to free them'

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