Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa is a voracious reader. The privileged few who have entered the portals of her Poes Garden residence speak of books lining the walls.
In which case, she must surely be familiar with Shakespeare’s Macbeth in which the protagonist speaks of “vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself.”
What else but soaring ambition could have spurred her on to recommend the freeing of the convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case? Clearly, she was hoping to court popularity, win as many seats as possible in the coming elections and with this be in a commanding position when the next government is formed.
She is an extremely intelligent woman, so it is not possible that she could have misunderstood the Supreme Court’s directive that the death sentence of the three convicts be commuted. Nowhere did the court say that they should walk free. Or not be given any other form of punishment. No, it was a deliberate misunderstanding on her part so that she could play to the galleries. Of course, now the Supreme Court has stayed her hand, but we can expect a battle royale on this issue.
Here are seven people against whom there is irrefutable proof of involvement in the assassination of former PM Rajiv Gandhi. Yet, a chief minister of the union of India feels that there is nothing wrong in letting them walk free. The message this sends out is unacceptable.
I don’t recall anyone in America calling for leniency for the killer of John F Kennedy or anyone expressing sympathy for the assassins of other heads of state. But Jayalalithaa seems to have overlooked the fact that it was her bounden duty as the constitutionally elected head of a state to have shown complete impartiality in what is essentially a judicial process.
Let me cast your mind back to the fateful days when the Sri Lankan army was prosecuting a brutal war on the Tamils. You will recall that in the final assault, the hapless Tamils were herded into a so-called safe zone with nothing but the Sri Lankan army on one side and the sea on the other. The zone was anything but safe when President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s army rained bombs and fired bullets on these people. With this, the Tamil resistance was crushed in no uncertain terms. And no apologies for the thousands of civilians killed as collateral damage.
I would have expected super Tamil patriot Jayalalithaa to have done a lot more than the routine tsk tsking that she did. She made a few noises but, let’s be honest, there was no outpouring of sympathy or any AIADMK-led protests of any significance in favour of the Tamils. It was Sri Lanka’s problem and it was left to Colombo to handle it.
The Tamil issue has always been a convenient tool for politicians in Tamil Nadu to score brownie points, even when the Sri Lankan Tamils have made it clear that they do not want self-styled advocates in Tamil Nadu. After all, they have to live with a triumphal Sinhala population.
When the final assault was being carried out, the caped crusader of Poes Garden should have moved the International Court of Justice and mobilised all the human rights groups possible across the world. She did nothing. Yet, now that elections are near, she has seen it fit to engage in what can only be described as a repugnant move to push for freedom for cold-blooded conspirators.
If she were so seized of the Tamil cause, I wonder why she huffed and puffed and blew the house down when there was a move to have the IPL in Chennai in which Lankan players were to participate. Her parochialism seems misplaced considering that the great Tamil off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan was also denied a chance to play in the state where his wife comes from.
In fact, she should have expressed great regret that the assassins chose the soil of Tamil Nadu to carry out their nefarious designs. Instead, here we have the unedifying spectacle of a chief minister suggesting that it is quite all right to let off the killers of a former head of State, a position she aspires to quite openly.
I am also not quite sure if this move is likely to win her great support in her state. The Tamils don’t seem to out on the streets celebrating Jayalalithaa’s magnanimity. Has she overstepped the limit this time? I think so. Again, I think this is deliberate so as to provoke a fight with the Centre. She, the all-encompassing Amma, and I use those terms advisedly, will stand up to the Centre and emerge a heroine. All the better to get votes with, my dear.
This sends out a very wrong signal. That you can be a murderer but if you are of particular ethnicity, there will be a political leader who will plead that you walk free because it will help that person further his or her ambitions. Perhaps a closer reading of Macbeth and where that ambition led him would prove useful. I am sure Jayalalithaa could find the time to do that one of these days.