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Rajiv Gandhi assassination convict's release stokes embers of Tamil sub-nationalism

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By Arun Lakshman
Chennai, May 22 (Ajit Weekly News) The ruling DMK and the opposition AIADMK are vying with each other to take the credit for the release of Rajiv Gandhi assassination convict, Perarivalan who was freed by the Supreme Court on May 18.

Immediately after the release of Perarivalan, AIADMK leaders and former Chief Ministers O. Panneerselvam and Edappadi K. Palaniswami in a statement said that his release was a ‘victory wholly’ for the party. The leaders said that it was the former Chief Minister and AIADMK leader, late J. Jayalalithaa who had in a declaration in the state assembly in February 2014 said that if the central government did not take a decision immediately for the release of the seven convicts, her government would go ahead with the decision of the state cabinet to release all the seven convicts.

The AIADMK leaders said that the government led by them had in 2018 decided ‘boldly’ to release all seven convicts and that it was that decision of the AIADMK government that has formed the basis of the Supreme Court judgment.

The ruling DMK went one step ahead with Chief Minister M.K. Stalin hugging Perarivalan hours after he was released and claiming the Supreme Court judgment as ‘historic’ and that his release after spending 31 years in prison was a huge victory for the state.

Stalin met Perarivalan and his mother Arputham Ammal at the Chennai airport lounge hours after the Supreme Court verdict on his release.

Apart from the two big Dravidian parties, smaller political parties that were constituted on the basis of Tamil nationalism also welcomed the release of Perarivalan. AMMK leader, TTV Dhinarakan said that the release of Perarivalan was a welcome decision of the apex court.

The Dravidian political parties in Tamil Nadu want to capitalise on the euphoria created by the release of Perarivalan among the local Tamil populace. They know that if they don’t move along with the sentiments of the Tamil populace, they will lose ground.

The major and minor Dravidian parties know that Tamil nationalism that is inbuilt in the psyche of an ordinary Tamilian will backfire on them if they don’t go along with the sentiments and the ground realities. There was a perception among the Tamil people that the decision of Rajiv Gandhi to send the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) to Sri Lanka was a wrong decision and that the Tamils there were at the receiving end of the IPKF.

C. Rajeev, political analyst, and Director, Centre for Policy and Development Studies, a think tank based out of Chennai, told Ajit Weekly News the “death sentence is not a solution to any issue but the celebrations after the release of Perarivalan and the rush by both the AIADMK and DMK leadership welcoming the release is a clear political move aimed at the Tamil diaspora and to highlight before the Tamil diaspora and general Tamil community that they were really caring about Tamil and Tamil populace across the globe.”

However the two major national political parties in Tamil Nadu, the Congress and the BJP came out strongly against the action of the Chief Minister and the Tamil political parties openly supporting the release of Perarivalan.

Congress Tamil Nadu state president K.S. Alagiri immediately after the Supreme Court order releasing Perarivalan said, “Perarivalan is not innocent, the Supreme court has released him on some legalities”.

BJP Tamil Nadu state president, K. Annamalai said the DMK was glorifying a murder convict who has been released by the Supreme Court using its extraordinary powers under Article 142 of the Constitution. He said that 17 people were killed along with Rajiv Gandhi and the dead included eight policemen. Annamalai said that the BJP while accepting the Supreme Court judgment was firm on its stand that all seven convicts are grave offenders.

While both the BJP and the Congress have come out strongly against creating a hype over the release of Perarivalan, the Dravidian majors and splinter Tamil political parties are creating a hype over the release to whip up Tamil regionalism.

Dr R. Padmanabhan, Director, Socio-Economic Development Foundation, a think tank based in Madurai, told Ajit Weekly News, “Tamil regionalism is coming to the fore over here and regional political parties are trying to whip up Tamil sentiments to try and increase their support base. The Tamil cause in Sri Lanka has always been a matter of sympathy in Tamil Nadu and the regional parties are trying to follow this while the national political parties cannot take such a position in this case.”

With the release of Perarivalan, calls for the release of the other convicts in the case are also being raised in the state with the octogenarian mother of Nalini, another convict, demanding her release.

–Ajit Weekly News
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