Nothing can ‘beat’ 1989 violence

Saturday’s incident in Assembly evokes the unpleasant past

February 18, 2017 11:35 pm | Updated 11:35 pm IST - Chennai

The violence in the Assembly on Saturday would fade into insignificance compared to past incidents in the House in Tamil Nadu, especially during the 10 years beginning 1988.

While the last vote on the Motion of Confidence moved by Janaki Ramachandran resulted in MLAs being lathicharged by the police, the violent scenes witnessed on March 25, 1989 is still seen as the low point in the history of the State’s Legislative Assembly.

On that day, when then Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi rose to present the State Budget, Leader of Opposition Jayalalithaa sought to move a Breach of Privilege motion against him accusing him of tapping her phones and allowing police to act in a high-handed manner against her. With Jayalalithaa sticking to her guns that a person charged with ‘criminal acts’ shouldn’t be allowed to present the State’s Budget despite Speaker Thamizhkudimagan’s assurances, Mr. Karunanidhi made some remarks. This provoked Jayalalithaa and soon an AIADMK member pushed a Bench in front of the Chief Minister resulting in Mr. Karunanidhi losing his balance.

Soon mikes were pulled out, paper weights were flung and bundles of paper were flung from both sides of the House. In the melee, Minister Veerapandi Arumugam suffered serious cut injury on his head.

Jayalalithaa also bore the brunt of the attack and when she attempted to leave the House, Minister Durai Murugan reportedly caught hold of her saree leading to an ugly situation.

Later, Mr. Karunanidhi alleged that that AIADMK MLA K.A. Sengottaiyan punched him on his face and broke his spectacles. “I told the Speaker that it (privilege motion) could be taken up on Monday as budget was being presented. Despite this and even when Ms. Jayalalithaa called me a criminal, DMK MLAs remained calm. Mr. Sengottaiyan attempted to pounce on me. Immediately, Ms. Jayalalithaa directed her party MLA to punch me and Mr.Sengottaiyan hit my face and broke my spectacles,” said Mr. Karunanidhi.

According to The Hindu archives, Jayalalithaa alleged, “They all concentrated on me and directed blows on my head. Throwing the podium, the bell on the Speaker’s table, big pads and bundles of budget papers, books and whatever missiles they could lay their hands on. I felt giddy and almost fainted. When party MLAs tried to escort me out, a DMK Minister caught hold of my saree and pulled it. This resulted in the safety pin on the shoulder giving way and causing bleeding injuries. The saree was torn.”

Incident in 1993

Four years later, violence and pandemonium returned to the House when AIADMK was in power. In March 1993, the Congress (I) began accusing the government of stifling the Opposition. The then Opposition leader S. R. Balasubramoniyan cited attacks on Congress (I) member Chellakumar by Independent MLA Thamaraikani and the attacks on party MLAs Sanjay Ramasamy, S. Peter Alphonse and threat to S. S. Ramasubbu.

On March 30 that year, Mr. Balasubramoniyan remarked that Jayalalithaa could not continue as a member of the House which resulted in AIADMK members rushing towards them. On April 20, several events led to Congress (I) resorting to a dharna inside the House as MLAs stayed overnight along with other opposition members. Seven days later, AIADMK responded that the Congress (I) was trying to build up a case to keep the Assembly under suspended animation and indulge in horse trading to form a coalition government.

Two years later, AIADMK member V.P.R. Ramesh and Congress (I) member C. Gnanasekaran exchanged blows after the Opposition took offence to Jayalalithaa calling Prime Minister Narasimha Rao as an “inert PM”.

The last major instance of violence inside the Tamil Nadu Assembly was in March 1999 when Agriculture Minister Veerapandi Arumugam was attacked by AIADMK leader R. Thamaraikani resulting in a bleeding nose. This culminated in the imprisonment of Thamaraikani on an arrest warrant issued by the Speaker.

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