Dead Men Walking
The hanging of Ajmal Kasab on November 21 puts the spotlight on the convicts waiting execution in Tamil Nadu. Three of them— Rajiv Gandhi’s assassin Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan— came close to meet their maker last year but the huge outcry and the consequent petition which is still pending, has given them another lease of life for a crime that was committed on May 21, 1991 when the former PM was blown up by a belt bomb in a conspiracy hatched by the LTTE.
The most recent case of a prisoner being awarded the death sentence is R. Manoharan who was involved in the kidnapping and rape of two siblings, Muskan and Hrithik Jain in Coimbatore in 2010. Ten-year-old Muskan and her brother were abducted by a call taxi driver, Mohanakrishan, and his friend, Manoharan, who then killed and dumped their bodies in the Parambikulam-Aliyar-Project (PAP) canal near Ankalakurichi, Pollachi in Coimbatore district. Muskan was also raped. On November 8, 2010, the city police allegedly took Mohanakrishnan to the PAP canal and shot him.
Another convict sentenced to death in Coimbatore central prison is Selvam after being convicted of murder. The other two on death row in Cuddalore are Sundarajan for the murder-kidnap of a seven-year-old boy, and Jayakumar for raping a minor girl and murdering a youth.
The remaining political convicts are Neduncheziyan, Muniyappan and Maadhu, all three in Vellore central prison. All belonging to the AIADMK, they have been convicted of burning a bus in Dharmapuri in February 2000 in which three college girls were travelling. The AIADMK men allgedly burnt the bus along with the girls to protest conviction of the then (also current) CM Jayalalitha in the Kodaikanal Pleasant Stay hotel case on February 2.
The Ticking Clock
But the case that has resulted in the biggest noise is the death sentence to Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan. When the hanging came up last year, Tamil groups and political parties banded together to prevent the hanging. The case is pending in the Supreme Court.
Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan were given the death penalty by a trial court on May 11,1999 and later, on October 8 that year, the Supreme Court rejected their mercy petitions. They then appealed to the Governor who rejected their mercy petitions on April 25, 2000. Their mercy petitions to the President filed on April 26, 2000 was turned down in April last year. They were scheduled to be hanged on September 9, 2011.
However there was a huge furore in the state leading to a resolution being passed in the TN assembly on August 30. The resolution stated: “In deference to sentiments of the people of Tamil Nadu and views of political parties over the issue, the Tamil Nadu assembly strongly urges the President to reconsider the mercy petitions of Santhan, Sriharan alias Murugan and Perarivalan and commute their death sentences to life imprisonment.”
The Madras high court stayed the executions for eight weeks on August 30, 3011 during which the petition by the three, seeking that their death sentence be commuted to life (the same thing that happened to Nalini after the intervention of Congress President Sonia Gandhi some years ago) came up. But when the Madras high court was hearing the case, 5000 pro-Tamil supporters crowded the room shouting slogans. Saying the scene was “totally unethical and improper” and “to ensure fair and free justice,” the writ petitions were transferred to the Supreme Court, where it is pending.
In Mani Ratnam’s film Anjali many years ago, there was a fight between two siblings which ended with the little girl saying her little brother was a “ootai vayi" (big mouth). That description would fit PMK chief S Ramadoss in recent weeks because he has annoyed women (with his comments on mobile phones luring girls “into a love trap”), progressives (with his comment on inter-caste marriages), Dalits led by MP Thol Thirumavalavan of the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (after the tension in Dharmapuri district where a Vanniyar girl married a Dalit boy leading to the former’s father committing suicide) and DMK chief M Karunanidhi (with his disparaging comment on Dravida Nadu)
Not that Ramadoss ever conducts his politics to win friends. He in fact, has demonstrated that he is strictly a fair weather friend jumping from aligning with the DMK and AIADMK and back every election just to safeguard his winning chances. Nemesis caught up with him last assembly election when his party won only 3 of the 30 seats it contested, after he aligned with the DMK because he had moved out of AIADMK camp after it won only 9 seats (as opposed to the DMK’s 18 seats) in the 2009 Lok Sabha election. Later he dumped Karunanidhi also because he could not swing support for his son, Anbumani Ramadoss, to be re-nominated to the Rajya Sabha.
Championing Dravida Nadu
DMK chief M Karunanidhi has always been sensitive about Tamil culture not only because it is politically correct to do so but because of his professed love for anything Dravidian and he sees himself as the guardian of Tamil. So naturally he was put off when Ramadoss said the Dravidian movement had only created “neo-Brahmins” while alienating Dalits, minorities and other socially and economically-backward sections of society. Not all true because Muslims have been aligning with both the DMK and AIADMK over the years.
“The redundancy of the Dravidian principle and its dilution are apparently visible against the context of today’s rising regional chauvinism. Instead of advocating ‘Tamiliyam’ (Tamil nationalism), Mr Karunanidhi clings on to his Dravidian myth that had failed Tamils,” Ramadoss jeered openly.
But Karunanidhi saw red when Ramadoss added: “The leaders of the Dravidian movement used fascinating language aimed at attracting people. The 45-year rule of Dravidian parties has not achieved any constructive development and in fact, the media houses promoted by the family members of these leaders have destroyed Tamil culture and civilization.” Of course his comments were aimed at Karunanidhi (and the way he promoted his clan) but the wily octogenarian chose to give the spin that Ramadoss was taking potshots at the Dravidian movement. “Dravida is a term coined by contemporary leaders and used by leaders like Periyar and Annadurai. It seems that only because they (those against ‘Dravida’) have not got the recognition across India, they are against Dravida,” he said addressing DMK’s youth wing members. “Don’t forget because of ‘Dravida’ your party grew,” he said. Ramadoss moved on to another battle with Thirumavalan.
But even so Ramadoss has currently hit a new low in a state where the two-tumbler system, denial of temple entry to Dalits and using common roads and graveyards continues to cause problems. The recent inter-caste marriage between a Vanniar girl and a Dalit boy has caused the current flare up between Ramadoss and Thirumavalavan.
In the past, the two shared the same platform (even if they were aligned with other parties) because the two leaders got along. So much so that the VCK conferred the titles ‘Tamil Kudithaangi’ and ‘Ambedkar Sudar’ on Ramadoss. That’s another alliance headed for divorce.