THE MLAs of the Tamil Nadu assembly by passing a unanimous resolution pleading for clemency for the LTTE terror convicts have sent an extremely dangerous message. With a little political pressure, these murderers—after the finale of a protracted legal battle—can subvert the court verdict, seek to undermine the due process of justice and thereby escape the gallows they deserved.
Everybody is making out the Sriperumbedur tragedy as one involving only the former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination. But what about dozens of other innocent men and women killed in the suicide bomb attack? What about their families? They too deserve justice. It is no way an issue involving the VVIP and his family alone.
All kinds of so-called social activists are speaking up for the killers. There is this renewed debate on death penalty itself. But this is not the occasion to discuss such issues.
The three men were awarded death sentence by the highest court of the land for involvement in the assassination of a former Prime Minister of India for his role in a political issue, which received the complete support of Indian Parliament. Many innocent lives also were lost in the suicide attack. These LTTE activists and sympathisers knowingly helped the assassins in the plot. Some of the top lawyers in the country argued on their behalf. The case went through three layers of judiciary before the final verdict was confirmed. The President of India also turned down their mercy petition. Now, when the sentence is about to be carried out, in the ‘n’th hour as it were, the politicians intervene in a shamelessly cynical overreach to save these men from the death row.
It is sad to see that the national parties joined hands with the regional forces to pass this resolution. The regional parties with their eye solely set on earning some brownie points on parochial sentiments sponsored the resolution. The Congress, which boasts of having paid the highest price in the terror attacks, actually sided with those seeking mercy for the killers. It is to be noted that the man behind this move, Mr Vaiko had served prison term for supporting the LTTE, a banned organisation.
It is rather dangerous that the whole issue has now assumed a regional, Tamil parochial colour rather than the national issue that it is. If criminals and murderers were to be seen from the angle of language and region, there would be no end to perversion of justice. As Dr Subramanian Swamy, one of the most outspoken politicians against the LTTE, right from the beginning said, the judgement cannot be put to discussion now, when only the carriage of justice is pending.
There are at least two reasons why the mercy pleaders were emboldened to make such a move. The first is, the Kerala assembly a few years ago passed a unanimous resolution seeking the release of Madani, an extremist leader accused in the Coimbatore bomb case, then housed in Coimbatore jail. The Kerala assembly pleaded that Madani was in death bed and had to be released on compassionate grounds. The Communists were the orchestrators of that move. The obliging DMK government led by M Karunanidhi released him. Madani is not only alive, he is far from death bed. It is another matter that he is now cooling heels in a Bangalore jail in yet another terror attack case.
The second reason is the ‘pardon‘ given by Sonia Gandhi to Nalini, one of the co-accused in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination. Sonia Gandhi, wanting to play more Christian than Christ and her daughter forgave Nalini, as if the crime was personal. They did not think of the agony of other victims’ families. That she had no right to pander her mighty generosity in an anti-national activity was not pointed out to her loudly enough. Today, the mother of one of the convicts is citing this very ground to demand clemency.
The Chennai High Court by staying the death sentence has taken a step to challenge the wisdom of not only the Supreme Court, but also the wisdom of the Government of India and the President of India.
The actions of the state assembly and the high court have led to a situation that can be easily replicated and acted out in Punjab and Jammu Kashmir. There are Khalistanis and jehadis who have been given death sentences and whose mercy petitions have been turned down.
If the state assembly of J&K were to pass such a resolution what should be the reaction? Already the J&K Chief Minister has let the cat among the pigeons by raising this very question. Should regional sentiments, religious affiliations, sectarian politics and vote bank considerations over-ride our national resolve to uphold the rule of law? A criminal has no other identity than that. Justice should not become the hand maiden of narrow, parochial or religious instincts. Terrorists and their megaphones have started appearing in the TV channels to support the TN assembly move and spoken about ‘emulating‘ it in other such cases. Who will stop them but a strong and sensitive national resolve? One of the activists for the death convicts in Tamil Nadu spoke about the death penalty not being a deterrent for those who are willing to be suicide bombers. Then, why, pray are they asking for mercy? They were willing to embrace death, by killing without mercy or reason. Then why shiver now?
It is high time the leaders of political parties both regional and national started speaking up for the nation and the people. Let them not bring down the prestige of their offices and abuse the privileges bestowed upon them for playing the champions for perpetrators of heinous crimes.