August 16, 2001


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The Rediff Interview/DMK MP, V Vetriselvan

'I do not regret taking my shirt off in Parliament'

The Lok Sabha was stunned. Dravidra Munnetra Kazgham parliamentarian V Vetriselvan from Tamil Nadu's Krishnagiri constituency, took off his shirt and pointed out the abrasions on his bare body to Speaker G M C Balyogi.

Vetriselvan was showing the House on Monday, August 13, how he had been assaulted by irate Tamil Nadu state policemen, allegedly at the behest of state Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa at the DMK rally in Madras on Sunday.

The DMK member then attempted to show the bruises on his legs. But before he could do so, the Lok Sabha was adjourned.

Vetriselvan spoke to Senior Special Correspondent Tara Shankar Sahay about the DMK rally and its aftermath.

You had no inhibition in exposing your body in the Lok Sabha to prove a point?

I wanted to show the nation that the Tamil Nadu government, at the behest of Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, has no respect for MLAs and even MPs, leave alone ordinary party workers. We could see the way these policemen conducted themselves, all their actions were pre-planned.

I took out my identity card to show them that I was an MP, but it was snatched away by the policemen who proceeded to rain blows on me with lathis. I was hit on the head, on my left arm (displays red welts and bruises on the swollen arm) and both my legs. I covered my face with my hands, but they went berserk. A senior police officer kicked me in the head and my stomach. If Jayalalitha's government can treat people's representatives this way, I have a right to apprise the people how unscrupulous she can be and to what extent she will go.

I felt that unless I showed my injuries in the Lok Sabha, I could not drive my point home and convince the central leadership that Jayalalithaa's government has to go considering its undemocratic and despotic ways.

The Lok Sabha is the highest forum of our democracy. It has certain decorumů

No, no, I have no regrets that I took my shirt off in the House. After all, I had to convince the House that even MPs and central ministers belonging to the Opposition are unsafe in the Jayalalitha administration. Supporters in my state insisted I should spare no effort to prove how I was mercilessly beaten up.

Jayalalithaa has alleged that when the DMK rally passed police headquarters, party workers stoned it and attacked policemen.

The fact is she got scared by the number of people at the rally. The chief minister was upset that about 10 lakh people came out in our support and against her undemocratic ways. She saw the spectre of doom -- a feeling she should somehow get even with us if she had to consolidate her grip on her illegal government.

That is why she instructed the state police to attack us with lathis and resort to firing as soon as we got within range. Tell me, could the beating up of central ministers and MPs and MLAs be tolerated in any other state?

In Kerala there is a new government headed by Chief Minister A K Antony. On assuming power, he pointed out that the ruling party and the Opposition must sink their differences so that the state can embark on the path of development. That is how it should be. But Jayalalithaa believes in might is right, no matter if the might has been obtained injudiciously and in a questionable manner.

Why has DMK president M Karunanidhi demanded a judicial inquiry into the firing at the rally?

Given the chief minister's lack of credibility and track record in the politics of vendetta, we want to be cent per cent sure that the inquiry will not turn out to be another whitewash, another farce. Our party chief has repeatedly said he does trust the chief minister because of her consistency in political deceit. We want to be sure the chief minister does not have a quiet laugh at our expense.

Isn't it difficult to believe that state policemen will attack an orderly rally as your party has claimed?

I ask you, what has Jayalalithaa been doing ever since she assumed power? She is planning one vendetta after another against us. You must be aware how she got the Tamil Nadu police to attack our party chief on trumped-up charges. He is an elderly, well-respected politician but she lodged him in jail and treated him like an ordinary criminal. She did not hesitate to attack our party colleagues (who are central ministers) like Murasoli Maran and T R Baalu.

This shows her dictatorial and vengeful streak. She has publicly told her followers that she will teach the DMK a lesson. That lesson entails thuggery, petty-mindedness and despotism of the worst order.

What has been the reaction in Tamil Nadu to the firing during your party rally?

To describe it in one word, sheer outrage. With the AIADMK government's plunging graph of popularity, rather, the lack of it, it is not difficult to imagine Jayalalithaa's plight.

She has realised and it is extremely difficult for her to fight us at a political plane so she has gone berserk. She is unleashing despotic measures against us and our party and also defying the central government in a bid to cling to power by hook or crook.

What has been the Centre's reaction?

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has assured us that he is looking into the issue. We are hopeful of getting justice.

And what does justice mean to you?

Justice means that the Jayalalithaa government, because of its dictatorial ways, should be dismissed and President's rule imposed in Tamil Nadu.

Do you think the Vajpayee government will help your party get justice in Tamil Nadu?

We have faith in the prime minister and since our party is a coalition partner at the Centre, we expect that he will take cognizance of our problems.

Page design: Dominic Xavier

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