Monday, Sep 20, 2021

Chennai Corner

Two year after being caught on a CD in a “compromising” position with an actress and several charges of rape, the past has caught up with Swami Nityananda

Chennai Corner
Chennai Corner

Blow Hot, Blow Cold

It’s been a very trying time for DMK chief M. Karunanidhi. Not only personally, but on the party front too—his grandson, Dayanidhi Azhagiri, who is allegedly involved in the Rs 16,000 crore granite scam, is still absconding and obviously Karunanidhi’s counsel to son, union minister M.K. Azhagiri, to get the AWOL lad to surrender has fallen on deaf ears. But Karunanidhi’s anguish was worsened after this week saw senior partymen washing dirty linen in public. In his usual letter in party mouth piece, Murasoli, Karunanidhi wrote: “What can cadres do but shed tears of blood when senior leaders, who are holding party positions, battle in the open?”

Not that rivalry within the DMK is unusual—it’s been happening for long with leaders trying to guard their turf. The most prominent manifestation is the simmering feud between Azhagiri and brother, M.K. Stalin, over leadership of the DMK after the 88-year-old patriarch bids goodbye. Acknowledging tacitly that he needs to put his own house in order on an issue that is making him “lose hunger and sleep”, Karunanidhi seems to have dispatched Stalin to meet Azhagiri.

So it was that Stalin, accompanied by his son Udhayanidhi and his son-in-law Sabareesan, called on Azhagiri at his residence, for the first time since the younger brother wished his older brother for his birthday on January 31. “I came to see my brother. I spoke on many issues with him … I need not divulge all to you people (media) ...,” Stalin said after the meeting but clearly a signal was being sent out.

But then again partymen are used to their blow hot, blow cold relationship. For instance, the two shared a dais in Madurai in March on the eve of the Sasnkarankoil byelection when Stalin referred to Azhagiri as “braveheart older brother” and the later referred to the former as “beloved younger brother” and cut to the recent meeting in Madurai, when supporters of both brothers came to blows.

Cooked Goose?

Speculation is that Stalin wanted his brother’s support in taking action against union minister of state for finance S.S. Palanimanickam, which Karunanidhi has opposed even though his letter in Murasoli lambasts the union minister. “Why was he (Palanimanickam) in a hurry? Why such a press meet? Will you resort to anything and take advantage of my affectionate nature? Why am I here? Why is there a party leadership? What would happen, if such a situation takes place in every district?” he wrote. 

But it appears that Palanimanickam can count himself out after the latest controversy. After all, with Baalu keeping quiet through it all while Karunanidhi has raged publicly at the union minister, it’s all but a foregone conclusion that Thanjavur constituency may have a new DMK candidate. Of course, it’s another matter whether DMK will win because CM Jayalalitha is already sharpening her knives to get all the 39 MP seats in the state so she can preen on the national stage.

Graceless under Fire

Incidentally, the only reason why Palanimanickam issued his so-called apology in Murasoli this week appears to be that he may have sensed that Stalin is trying to persuade Karunanidhi to replace him as district secretary of Thanjavur. And there's also his other fear that might still come true: that T.R. Baalu might replace him when DMK releases its candidate list when the general elections come around.

In fact, what is it about apologies by politicians that they lack grace and lead with egoism? Sample these three apologies: 

  1. Palanimanickam, as published in DMK mouth piece Murasoli: “I consider you(Karunanidhi) like my father. If my recent action has hurt you, I deeply regret it and seek your pardon.”
  2. Former union minister Virbhadra Singh, currently fielding accusations of corruption, after being caught threatening cameramen, “I will break you cameras, said, “If anybody’s sentiments are hurt, then I regret it.”
  3. Sandeep Dikshit of the Congress saying “sorry” on Virbhadra Singh’s behalf: “If anyone is hurt, we apologise.” 

Talk about lack of grace under pressure.

Dirty Linen

But what has been unusual is when senior leaders take their squabbles to the media, as Palanimanickam did when he accused Parliamentary Party leader T.R. Baalu of invading his Thanjavur turf. It’s another matter that Baalu already did that last May when his son (T.R.B. Raaja) got and won an assembly seat (Mannargudi) in the district and Palanimanickam, who is also the district secretary, kept quiet.

Baalu is a heavyweight in the party even though PM refused to induct him into the cabinet over corruption charges in the controversial Sethusamudram project. In his capacity as the chairman of the Standing Committee on Railways, Baalu announced the project but Palanamanickam sees a more sinister motive—that Baalu wants to migrate to Thanjavur constituency from Sriperumbudur (where, according to Palanamanickam there are enough and more problems that the MP has done nothing about ).

Palanimanickam has been elected from Thanjavur constituency five times. It’s true that Baalu comes from Mannargudi but he has been elected four times from Chennai South constituency and on the fifth occasion from Sriperumbdur. 

Palanimanickam said Baalu’s family-owned distillery—Baalu’s son T.R.B. Rajakumar is the owner—at Vadaseri in Thanjavur district was opposed by locals who feared it would create environmental problems. In fact the Madras high court put the brakes on the project. “I do not know what goes on in his (Baalu’s) mind, but if need be I will jump on to the protesters’ bandwagon if he does not mend his ways,” Palanimanickam said. He also alleged that apart from wanting to commandeer his constituency, Baalu’s single focus was to further the business interests of his family.

Better Late...

This is one CD Swami who cannot shake off his past. Two year after being caught on a CD in a “compromising” position with an actress and several charges of rape, including by a former NRI devotee, the past has caught up with Swami Nityananda. It took six months but Swami Nityananda who was controversially appointed as the 293rd pontiff of the 1500 year-old Madurai Adheenam, a Saivite centre of learning, on April 27 was kicked out last week.

Arunagirinathar, senior pontiff of Madurai Adheenam, had called Nityananda a “learned and enlightened soul,” while appointing him. But after removing him, amidst a spate of PILs in the Madras high court and the uproar over his unilateral appointment, Arunagirnathar said, “By doing so, I have restored the glory of the ancient mutt.” 

It’s clear that he’s going to be next in line to go for his defiance earlier arguing that he had done the right thing. For his part, Nityananda said, “I did not seek to succeed Desikar as Madurai Mutt pontiff. It was his decision to anoint me. I promised to step down if problems arose. I have no qualms about being removed from the post.”

The exasperated judges of the high court pulled up the government for dragging its feet on the issue. “Why have you been silent for the past six months? Had you acted upon the complaints, a spate of litigation would not have come before us.”

Questionable Decisions

But even a day before he removed him, Arunagirinathar had argued that allegations against Nityananda were motivated, concocted and fabricated. In fact, he had tried to make a case that neither the court nor the government’s Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) Department could question his decision. But he seems to have fallen in line—and apparently sold his so-called protégé’ down the river—after the HR and CE department moved the court to remove him from the trusteeship of the mutt.

But legal experts say Arunagirinathan will be history because the government is intent on taking over the mutt. Many feel it may not be such a bad thing for the mutt which is very wealthy. In fact the allegation during the controversial appointment was that Nityananda had given Rs one crore in exchange for being appointed the 293rd pontiff. Government Advocate General A. Navaneetha Krishnan has made it clear that the HR and CE department had the power to act and it did “because Nityananda was an outsider and not a disciple of the reigning pontiff.” He told the court that, “Nityananda cannot be nominated on the ground of morality, decency and public order.” Besides, he points out, it’s only after the incumbent’s death can a successor be appointed.

Arunagirinathar has more reason to feel that the government will get him out because he has made questionable decisions in the past too. In 2004, he anointed Swaminathan, his relative as the junior pontiff. But soon sent Swaminathan out alleging that he was working against the mutt. Days later, he brought 13-year-old Bharanidharan alias Salem kutti samiyar but the boy went too. After that a disciple was chosen and removed later. And now he is in the eye of the storm because he not only chose Nityananda but defended his decision vehemently.

Good, Bad and the Ugly

It’s often said that the judiciary runs the country. And Madras high court, which recently celebrated its sesquicentennial, has topped having the highest rate of disposal of cases in the past few years. However, with Justice P. Jyothimani retiring this year and many more next year, the high court will have 10 less than its sanctioned strength of 60. It was last close to that figure only in 2009, but since then judges have moved to the Supreme Court (Chief Justice M.Y. Eqbal is going soon) or have retired, but appointments have not kept pace. And given the fact that it takes anywhere between six months to a year for a batch of short-listed candidates to be placed before the Supreme Court to get approval, one can be pretty certain that speedy disposal is not going to happen.

But for all the glory the Madas high court has brought, there are bad eggs in smaller courts. For instance, the sessions judge of Ramanathapuram, K.Govindarajulu, was suspended this month after several complaints from lawyers and litigants that not only was he corrupt but sleeping on the job.

Interestingly, there were similar complaints even from the courts he served in earlier but Govindrajulu, 59, was given an extension ten months ago after he retired. But amid mounting complaints, a sitting judge of the high court and the registrar (vigilance) held an inquiry and found the charges that he was corrupt, had no discipline (held late and irregular sittings) and dozed off in court were true, and suspended him. 

Horror Show

It was a grisly sight that many who saw it might be haunted by it forever. A human head in a decomposed state, wrapped in a plastic bag, was found on the road this week alarming people who saw this ghoulish sight. It turned out later that sub-inspector Agoramurthy was heading to the burial ground with the head in a plastic bucket when a pothole (there are many all over Chennai city since the North East monsoon came calling last week) made the head tumble onto the road. The head belonging to an unidentified person, was all that was left because the rest of the body had decomposed. The forensic experts of the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital kept the head for DNA mapping of the skull and once that was over handed it over for disposal.

But the finding also indicates that bodies which end up in hospital morgues and especially those which are part of a police investigation, are stripped of all dignity. Apart from the disrespect by humans, bodies get decomposed faster because the morgues’ temperature is not optimal, and get nibbled on by rats. “We often tell relatives that we removed an organ rather than admit it was eaten by rats,” admits a forensic professor.

In addition, doctors and other staff are given crude implements like hacksaw and hammers because no one wants to use the electric saws for fear of electrocution. And if the skull is crudely cut open in a way that the brain spills out, all that needs to be done is to stuff it into the abdomen and stitch it up which is done often by ward boys and criminologists because of the shortage of forensic doctors.


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