November 9, 2000


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The Rediff Interview/ Pazha Nedumaran

'I am helpless. After all, I am anti-national'

Just a day before the interview, Pazha Nedumaran, seemed jovial over the phone. The emissary had finalised his plan to go into the jungle for the second time to negotiate the release of Dr Rajakumar, and was waiting for the other two emissaries, Professor Kalyani and G Sukumaran to reach Madras. He cracked jokes on his own philosophical answers to the questions posed to him, but promised not to be philosophical once he returned from the jungle. He was very hopeful about bringing Dr Rajakumar back even though the Supreme Court verdict went against their plans.

But by evening, things had changed for the worse. 'I have issued a statement and I don't have anything more to say now,' he said. The reason for his anger was the outburst of S Balakrishnan of the TMC, who is the leader of the Opposition in the Tamil Nadu assembly. Balakrishnan questioned the choice of Nedumaran as the emissary, called him anti-national and demanded his arrest for anti-national activities. This obviously angered and hurt Nedumaran and he decided to pull out of the mission.

In an interview to Shobha Warrier, the angry emissary spoke about the allegations against him and his role in the long-running Rajakumar kidnap issue.

There was a lot of criticism when you decided to go to the jungle as an emissary but you did not pay any attention to it. But when the leader of the opposition made certain remarks in the assembly, you decided to pull out of the mission even though you had made all the plans to start the trip?

For the past several days, I have been swallowing all the criticism that was raised against me. I kept quiet. I didn't want to reply to any of them because I was on a humanitarian mission. But this (the opposition leader's remarks) is different. Some newspapers criticised me. Some political leaders issued statements against me. I am telling you, but this is different. The leader of the Opposition on the floor of the Assembly used unparliamentary words againstme. He called me anti-national and many such names. I cannot tolerate all this. Nobody can tolerate this.

Were you hurt or angry by these words?

I am not angry. Let him go. He is the fittest person now. He is wiser than me. He is the leader of the Opposition here. If he goes and meets Mr Veerappan, everything will be fine. I am saying this again -- he is a better person than me.

Sonia Gandhi in a public function in Karnataka said that the state had nothing to do with your role as the emissary. You took it quite coolly then.

You must understand that there is a lot of difference between a person speaking outside and a person speaking in the floor of the House. Nobody can tolerate this kind of irresponsible behaviour. Nobody can...

On Tuesday when I spoke to you, you were ready to go on the mission and you were very hopeful too.

I came to know about this only from the evening newspapers. Immediately, I told everyone that I was not going. I said, let him go.

Were you disappointed by the Supreme Court verdict?

I was disappointed but I have to accept it, as it was the verdict of the court.

Even after you found that the verdict was not in favour of the TADA detenues, you were willing to go.

Yes, because there is a lot of difference between the court verdict and the accusations of the Opposition leader.

Did the decision of the National Human Rights Commission not to intervene also disappoint you?

Certainly. They should have intervened. Unfortunately, they have taken a wrong decision. I am disappointed.

When you issued a statement on Monday evening, that you would not go as an emissary, did either of the Karnataka or Tamil Nadu chief ministers contact you and request you to reconsider the decision?

I can't reveal it now. So many people telephoned me. So many people sent faxes to me...

If Rajakumar's sons requested you, will you reconsider your decision?

(Thinks for a while) Considering or reconsidering is not an issue now. I have taken a decision and there will not be any change at all in my decision.

If the leader of the Opposition sends you an apology, will you reconsider?

Let it come, you can ask me that question after that.

Why I asked you this question now was because you said you were going on humanitarian grounds.

Yes, I was going on the mission only on humanitarian grounds. But I don't expect any apology or request from anybody.

Another criticism that was raised against you by the leader of the Opposition was that in a meeting in Madurai, you urged the people to register themselves as Tamils and not as Indians in the census. Why did you ask people to do that?

Which state are you from?

I am from Kerala.

You are from Kerala. Won't you call yourself a Keralite? You call yourself a Malayali. I call myself a Tamilian. A Bengali describes himself as a Bengali. There is nothing wrong in that. I emphasised only that. You are a Malayali first, are you not? In the same way, I said I am a Tamil first.

You are also an Indian.

Yes, I am. But I am a Tamil first. Mr Jyoti Basu calls himself a Bengali. He is proud of it but nobody accuses him. But when I say that I am a Tamil, I am accused of being anti-national!

Is it because you sympathise with the LTTE that they accuse you?

Tell me, what has the LTTE got to do with this? What is the connection between the LTTE and this issue? Whatever I say, they try to connect to the LTTE. What kind of nonsense is this?

Do you feel bad for Dr Rajakumar and his family?

I feel very sad for Dr Rajakumar and his family. I know their plight. I can understand their suffering. But what can I do? I am a helpless man. After all, I am an anti-national. What can I do?

Related stories:
The Negotiator
Nedumaran 'ready' for another trip
'The LTTE is a freedom movement'

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