By Veda Nadendla:
It isÂ September 27 2014; at about 2pm I receive a WhatsApp message telling me to get home at once, because riots are about to begin all over the city. This is barely an hour before Tamil Nadu is about to change forever. An hour before the state is left without a Chief Minister.
On June 14, 1996, a case was filed before the Principal Sessions Judge by Subramanian Swamy, then Janata Party leader, alleging that the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Jayalalithaa had assets disproportionate to her known income. Following this, the Anti-Corruption wing and The Directorate of Vigilance were ordered by the court to investigate the allegation, and subsequently an FIR was registered by the police on September 18, 1996. Before assuming office as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu on July 1, 1991, the value of her assets was Rs. 2.01 crore- at the time when Jayalalithaa had said that she was drawing a salary of Re. 1. When she resigned from office in 1996 following the allegations by S. Swamy, the value of her assets were said to have allegedly increased Rs. 66.65 crore. The case was then transferred to Bangalore in 2003, maintaining that it would not be a free and fair trial if conducted in Tamil Nadu.
18 years later, on the afternoon of 27 September 2014, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, J Jayalalithaa and three others were convicted in a disproportionate assets case under The Prevention of Corruption Act 1988; for amassing disproportionate assets worth Rs. 66.5 crore, which include 2000 acres of land, 12 kg of gold and 12,000 sarees. In what came as a blow to Jayalalithaa’s deeply impactful political career, she must once again demit from the post of Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, during a time when AIADMK is the ruling party in the state; serve a mandatory four year prison sentence and desist from contesting the elections for six years after the completion of her sentence. Even though she is expected to move for bail and contest the verdict of the Special Court in the Supreme Court, 10 years of exile from electoral politics awaits the beloved Amma.
On the day when impending justice is served to a criminal, injustice prevails in the streets of a state controlled by violent and unreasonable advocates of Amma, despite her indiscretions. Within an hour of the verdict, practically all public facilities, educational institutions and offices where shut and people were rushing home in anticipation of riots, when all hell broke loose. There was burning of public buses and trucks, stoning of street side shops, angry men parading with iron rods and burning sticks. In key areas like T. Nagar, Injambakkam and Ambattur, hot blooded AIADMK supporters blockaded streets with angry shouts of hatred, burning and violently stamping figurines representing DMK leaders. People were stranded in public spaces seeking shelter from angry mobs destroying anything that came in its way with no respite for man, woman or child. With no sense of remorse or logic, mobs have taken over the city claiming that Amma will rise again.
Where does all this anger come from? Are we such a gullible populace that our love for a leader blindly pushes us to violently disregard the law and our common sense? What I had only heard of as mob mentality, materialized itself in front of my own eyes on the streets of my beloved safe city. Now, burglars will not be afraid to steal because the police is too busy controlling riots, people are not afraid to harm anyone because their crime will go unnoticed in light of the current unrest. Crime now has a legitimate catalyst and an acceptable justification. We are not angry that our trust has been broken by the one we went out in mobs to vote for; we are not upset that she deceived us so. No. We are just angered senseless by our sentiment toward our beloved convicted leader.
Some rejoice that Jayalalithaa got what she deserved, while some defend that she is innocent and she will prove herself to the Supreme Court. Some expect that the Tamil Nadu Finance Minister, O Panneerselvam will replace Amma as the CM. Some are expecting riots to continue into the coming week, and that this time, lives will be taken. Some say that the Centre should take control of the state and deploy the army, to maintain safety and decorum. Some are vigorously applauding the judicial system for its prompt verdict on the case, 18 years after it was filed. Then there are those who are hoping that the AIADMK will bounce back and remain in power in the next elections because a DMK regime is unbearable.
We are willing to keep one allegedly criminal party in power to avoid being ruled by another in the same league of belligerence. What other options do we have? We knew she was alleged, and yet we voted for her. It is plain disappointing, that a woman, who transformed Tamil Nadu with highly impactful socially beneficial initiatives and by raising the bar for police forces across the country; is but a fraud. The dire situation we face is not the emergency in the face of riots and the lack of a leader; it is the pathetic result of decades of rotten and nepotistic political practices rampant in our nation. We are a nation that encourages criminals to control and run its offices, while simultaneously complaining that they are not doing their job right.
I feel sad that Tamil Nadu is losing its power point of orderly and innovative governance, by a leader who pushed her limits to build a better state. But I also feel a sense of relief that another one bites the dust. For how long, though? She will be back in a matter of 10 years or lesser if her influence and power allows. In the meantime, there will be others like her, in positions of power, yet hungry for more, cheating us out of our hard earned money, philandering our trust and making us mindless mob-bots ready to disrupt and attack at instruction. And even then, we will trust them because clearly we have no other option. Irony is that, in India we don’t vote for the most capable, we vote for the one who is least incapable. Although, this time, it will not be our choice. We will be forced into accepting a leader in a time of adversity, without knowledge of his capability to govern this beautiful state.
In my eyes a crime is a crime irrespective of power or position, everyone should be judged the same in the eyes of the law. Tell us what you think about the verdict and its repercussions for the state of Tamil Nadu in the comments below.