`Demolition another anti-democratic act'

CHENNAI Aug. 10. Opposition parties today condemned the demolition of Seerani Arangam on the Marina here last night and raised the apprehension whether the exercise was a prelude to a ban on public meetings on the beach.

A popular landmark on the Marina, the stage was used by many political formations and social organisations to hold public meetings.

The DMK president, M.Karunanidhi, said that justice could not be expected from the present Government. "Anything can happen in the present regime."

Asked if the platform was demolished because it was built by the DMK, he said he did not want to go into the reasons.

A volunteer corps put together by the former Chief Minister, C.N.Annadurai, built the Arangam.

The corps was called `Seerani corps' and hence the name, Mr.Karunanidhi explained.

The CPI(M) said there could be an ulterior motive behind the pulling down of the structure, coming as it did after the Government's attempts to demolish the Queen Mary's College here and a move to clear Nochikuppam, near the Marina, of fishermen settlements.

In a statement here, the State Secretary, N.Varadarajan, said that the Government should take steps to rebuild the Arangam at the same spot. The demolition was the continuation of the anti-democratic manner of functioning by the AIADMK Government, reflected in many of its recent actions, including the invoking of Essential Services Maintenance Act against striking government employees.

The PMK founder, S.Ramadoss, noting that the platform hosted several historic meetings, said that the midnight operation to demolish it deserved to be condemned.

All democratic forces should oppose the move, he said.

The fact that the demolition was done at midnight and that photographers and cameramen were not allowed to shoot the demolition raised questions about the Government's motives.

When the AIADMK Government came to power it pledged to the people in the Governor's address that it would "adopt all means necessary to provide a transparent administration in the State," he said and wondered why there was no transparency in taking the decision.

The CPI said the demolition came as a shock to the party.

In a statement here, its State secretary, R.Nallakannu, said the party condemned the operation done under the cover of darkness.