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“Equal rights for Tamils, Congress goal”

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DMK president and Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi addressing an election meeting in Chennai on Sunday. UPA chairperson and Congress president Sonia Gandhi is in the picture.
DMK president and Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi addressing an election meeting in Chennai on Sunday. UPA chairperson and Congress president Sonia Gandhi is in the picture.

T. Ramakrishnan and Shyam Ranganathan

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CHENNAI: The ultimate goal of the Congress with regard to the Sri Lankan Tamils issue is to secure equal rights and status for the Tamils within the framework of the India-Sri Lanka Accord of 1987, party president Sonia Gandhi said on Sunday.

Strongly defending the handling of the Sri Lankan Tamils issue by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government, Ms. Gandhi told a meeting organised by the party on the Island Grounds here that “it is due to our government’s resolute efforts” that the Sri Lankan government announced the conclusion of combat operations.

“Our government is doing everything possible to bring the hostilities to an end and to ensure that the affected people are moved to safe places.”

Pointing out how deeply anguished she was at the suffering of innocent people caught in the crossfire in Sri Lanka, the Congress president said, “We [the UPA government] are determined to carry forward our humanitarian work.”

Referring to a number of projects undertaken by the UPA government to upgrade Tamil Nadu’s infrastructure, Ms. Gandhi asked if any other government had done so much for the people of the State.

“I can say with a sense of pride and with a sense of confidence that the UPA has not let down the people of Tamil Nadu.”

Recalling that the “tremendous support” given by the State during the 2004 Lok Sabha election was responsible for the launch of the UPA government, she called upon the voters of the State to repeat the result.

Refuting reports that the Congress and the DMK were not working together, she said those who spread such rumours were working for their own interests.

“We have worked together with this alliance. We have been loyal friends. We will continue together.”

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam president and Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi recalled how All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam general secretary Jayalalithaa attacked him for his eulogy of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam’s political wing chief Thamilchelvan, who was killed in November 2007, and that she demanded his government’s dismissal.

Noting that she was now advocating the idea of separate Eelam, he termed her demand as strange and amusing.

The DMK leader also recounted that the previous AIADMK regime conveyed its strong opposition to the Union government on hearing reports that Anton Balasingham, theoretician and political adviser of the LTTE, and his wife had wanted to stay in Chennai for holding peace talks.

Dismissing the criticism of some parties that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh or the Congress president did not bother to address the problem of Sri Lankan Tamils, the Chief Minister pointed to the effective articulation of the issue by Dr. Singh at his press conference in Chennai on Saturday in which the Prime Minister talked of a political settlement through negotiations.

He also referred to the speech of Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi in Tiruchi last week on the Tamils question.

Mr. Karunanidhi also read out the Congress president’s letter to him in March in which she explained how the Congress had been espousing the cause of the Tamils and that the party’s position was reflected in its election manifesto.

He asked what more proof was required to show the concern of Dr. Singh, Ms. Gandhi and the Congress for the Sri Lankan Tamils and said he did not want to give a point-by-point rebuttal to the critics of the Congress.

The Chief Minister gave an account of various measures of the UPA government for the benefit of the State.

He mentioned an investment of over Rs. 56,664 crore in highways and shipping, the sanction of Rs. 14,600 crore for the Chennai Metro Rail project, the Sethusamudram project and the declaration of Tamil as a classical language among others.

Tamil Nadu Congress Committee president K.V. Thangkabalu said the Tamils, whether in India or Sri Lanka, were safe under the regime of Mr. Karunanidhi.

Thol. Thirumavalavan, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi president, appealed to the Congress president to see to it that the Tamils were safeguarded.

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