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In Tamil Nadu, an uproar over a hug 

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin during his interaction with A.G. Perarivalan and his mother Arputham  after the Supreme Court released Perarivalan.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin during his interaction with A.G. Perarivalan and his mother Arputham after the Supreme Court released Perarivalan. | Photo Credit: PTI

It was no surprise when certain sections of society in Tamil Nadu celebrated the news of the Supreme Court ordering the release of A.G. Perarivalan, one of the seven convicts in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. But what has triggered a political controversy is the way Chief Minister M.K. Stalin received Perarivalan on the day of the Supreme Court’s decision. The image of the Chief Minister hugging Perarivalan at the Chennai airport went viral, evoking strong reactions from many, including survivors and other persons affected by the bomb blast in which Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in May 1991. While the BJP State president, K. Annamalai, was forthright in criticising the Chief Minister for his reaction, the Congress, an ally of the DMK in Tamil Nadu, simply stuck to disagreeing with the Supreme Court’s verdict.

Those directly impacted by the assassination are livid that Mr. Stalin greeted Perarivalan warmly. “What did Perarivalan achieve for the Chief Minister to hug him,” asked Anusuya Daisy Ernest, now a retired police officer and one of the survivors of the blast. As a sub-inspector in May 1991 and posted for the security of Rajiv Gandhi, Ms. Ernest had, seconds before the blast, attempted to stop the assassin Dhanu, “the human bomb”, from approaching Rajiv Gandhi but the former Prime Minister had restrained her. “Why did the Chief Minister not meet us (the affected persons of the blast),” the former police officer asked. In the last 31 years, successive Chief Ministers did not bother to meet the survivors of the blast and the family members of the 15 persons (apart from Rajiv Gandhi) who were killed in it, she added.

However, Mr. Stalin alone did not hail the verdict. A large number of political parties, including the AIADMK, the principal Opposition party, welcomed the development. In fact, the AIADMK claimed credit for the release of Perarivalan, as it was Jayalalithaa who, as Chief Minister, declared on the floor of the Assembly in February 2014 that if the Centre did not take a decision immediately, her government would go ahead with the decision of the State Cabinet to release all the seven convicts in the case. Perarivalan, along with his mother, Arputham, also met AIADMK coordinator O. Panneerselvam and co-coordinator Edappadi K. Palaniswami. The mother and son went on to meet several other leaders belonging to different parties.

Yet, Mr. Stalin has become the cynosure of public attention. In fact, his consultation with legal experts on the release of the remaining six convicts on the death anniversary of Rajiv Gandhi (May 21) too came in for sharp criticism as the Tamil Maanila Congress (M) leader G.K. Vasan said it was like rubbing salt in the wound.

But the DMK’s take on the episode is different. Commenting on Mr. Stalin’s reception of Perarivalan, the party spokesperson, A. Saravanan, recalled the submission made by the former probe officer, V. Thiagarajan, in an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court in October 2017, that Perarivalan had “absolutely no idea” about the deadly purpose of the two nine-volt batteries he had bought and handed over to the assassins. Contending that such was the material on which Perarivalan was convicted, the spokesperson also pointed out that the former police officer has not been prosecuted for perjury. Besides, the judicial verdict should be viewed as a victory for the rights of States vis-a-vis the powers of the Centre in the present political context, he added.

Notwithstanding the strong reaction to his action, Mr. Stalin’s meeting with Perarivalan will remain a subject of discussion for long.

ramakrishnan.t@thehindu.co.in


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Printable version | May 25, 2022 2:20:06 am | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/perarivalan-release-the-uproar-over-a-hug/article65457204.ece