Pseudo-Secularism

Hindu dharma is implicitly at odds with monotheistic intolerance. What is happening in India is a new historical awakening... Indian intellectuals, who want to be secure in their liberal beliefs, may not understand what is going on. But every other Indian knows precisely what is happening: deep down he knows that a larger response is emerging even if at times this response appears in his eyes to be threatening.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Lawless and orderless Dravidian land

By: B.R.Haran

No man is above the law and no man is below it; nor do we ask any man’s permission when we ask him to obey it. Obedience to the law is demanded as a right; not asked as a favor.

— Theodore Roosevelt

The people of Tamilnadu are in a state of shock after seeing the murderous violence, which erupted inside the Dr Ambedkar government law college between BC students and SC students. Three students are recuperating in the government general hospital and all the law colleges and their hostels across the state are closed. The semester examinations have been postponed and the government has constituted a judicial commission headed by Retired Justice Shanmugam. Though the cause of the violence is said to be a poster, carrying the college name without its title ‘Dr Ambedkar’, designed by the BC students for the ‘Thevar day’ celebrations, which was objected to by the SC students, the people in the know-how say that the violence was waiting to happen.

The simmering heat between the ‘day-scholars’ and the ‘hostel boys’ - majority of day scholars are BCs and majority of hostel boys are SCs – caught wild fire due to the poster issue resulting in unprecedented violence inside the college. The fact that a posse of policemen was present just outside the premises shows that the police were aware of the burning issue and that they have expected some untoward things. But, it is sad & unfortunate that the police have failed to curb the violence going on in front of their eyes and it is also condemnable that the college principal has delayed giving permission to police to enter the campus.

In the aftermath of the violence, a third year student, who was also drunk, attempted self-immolation inside the government general hospital on Monday. When he was prevented and taken to the flower bazaar police station, he behaved in the most uncouth manner calling the police officers names using abusive and vulgar language. A private TV channel, notwithstanding the earlier violence, which has also been repeatedly telecast by all the channels since last week, repeatedly telecast his drama in the police station. Those, who have been watching the violence and the errant behaviour of this particular student, must be deeply worried about the future of law & justice in this state.

The simmering heat between the ‘day-scholars’ and the ‘hostel boys’ - majority of day scholars are BCs and majority of hostel boys are SCs – caught wild fire due to the poster issue resulting in unprecedented violence inside the college. The fact that a posse of policemen was present just outside the premises shows that the police were aware of the burning issue and that they have expected some untoward things. But, it is sad & unfortunate that the police have failed to curb the violence going on in front of their eyes and it is also condemnable that the college principal has delayed giving permission to police to enter the campus.

In the aftermath of the violence, a third year student, who was also drunk, attempted self-immolation inside the government general hospital on Monday. When he was prevented and taken to the flower bazaar police station, he behaved in the most uncouth manner calling the police officers names using abusive and vulgar language. A private TV channel, notwithstanding the earlier violence, which has also been repeatedly telecast by all the channels since last week, repeatedly telecast his drama in the police station. Those, who have been watching the violence and the errant behaviour of this particular student, must be deeply worried about the future of law & justice in this state.


The only stable state is the one in which all men are equal before the law.
Author: Aris

Tamilnadu has a glorious history of law and justice right from ancient days. The state has produced great legal luminaries such as Sir T Muthuswamy Iyer (First Indian to be appointed to the Bench of the Madras High Court), Sir V Bashyam Iyengar, V O Chidambaram Pillai, Justice Rajamannar, Advocate Desikachari (founder of TUCS), Justice Somasundaram, S.Srinivasa Iyengar, Vijayaragavachariyar, Justice Viswam, Justice M M Ismail and many others, who have brought name and fame for this state. Some of them have had worldwide reputation. The glorious history, of course, continues even now and we have great lawyers like K K Venugopal, K Parasaran, K Vijayan and others, who are making a mark in the field of law and justice.

The Madras High Court stands tall as a testimony for the rich heritage of Tamilnadu’s legal luminance. The long corridors of the HC building have the portraits of great stalwarts of yesteryears signifying Tamilnadu’s remarkable history of law & justice. Sadly, a major section of the present day advocates may not know anything about those stalwarts. Though a small section of advocates are truly professional and maintain the decency and decorum needed for it, concentrating more on their profession and building their career, the general feeling among the public about the advocates in Tamilnadu is not at all encouraging.

Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws.
Author: Plato

The relationship between the police and the lawyers has also worsened over the years and they behave like rank adversaries and the enmity has been only growing. The advocates are so arrogant that they even physically attack the police. They don’t allow the police to take action against the errant lawyers or law students, even on genuine complaints. The support that the legal fraternity gets from the ‘powerful’ politicians compels the police to remain passive and ineffective. A review of recent incidents will give a sordid picture of the worsening relationship between the lawyers and the police.

  • The students of the law college hostel thrashed an Assistant Commissioner C Rajamani, Inspector Kanakaraj and Head Constable Chandran of Kilpauk range in October 2007.

  • Lawyers inside the Madras High Court premises assaulted an inspector and a sub-inspector last year.

  • A constable on duty was attacked inside the government Stanley hospital by a group of lawyers, who later resorted to road blockade demanding the arrest of the constable in October 2007.

Most of the complaints against unruly lawyers are normally settled through compromise, despite the unwillingness of the complainants, due to political interventions. Or, at the most the cases stagnate at the level of FIRs without any further pursuance. The police are so helpless that they cannot book a lawyer even for a traffic violation or any other mild offence and the invariable interference of the politicians has made the police to turn a blind eye towards the offences, major or minor, committed by the lawyers and the law students.

Over the years the state has been witnessing a steady deterioration in the behavioral attitude and professional aptitude of the lawyers. Advocate Karthikeyan, a practicing senior lawyer and a state level office bearer in Hindu Munnani, says, ‘it is very sad that the legal fraternity stand divided in to groups along caste lines, which has its own effect on the students too. Groupism has become the order of the day, which even mars the functioning of the Advocates Association’.

The legal fraternity stands divided as per caste and political affiliations and groupism rules in the premises of the Courts. It seems that those lawyers, who have political influence develop a sort of self-aggrandizement and form groups as per their political and caste affiliation. These self-styled advocates tend to influence the law students and bring them into their fold, particularly during election times and make use of them to canvas and campaign in favour of them. This influence from the advocates plays badly in the minds of the students, who also form into groups as per their political and caste affiliations. They also tend to believe that they need the help of these advocates for pursuing their career in future after completing their college terms.

Advocate Karthikeyan says, ‘the police are left with no choice but to abide by the orders of the politicians and they are really helpless. They are in a pitiable situation in the sense that, they will have to face the music either way, if they take action or if even they don’t take action. Political interference is not going to stop and hence it will be difficult for the police to rein in the errant lawyers’. When asked about the possible solution to this menace of groupism and violence, particularly in the student level, he said, ‘the government law college hostel must be closed and the students must be segregated and settled in other student hostels run by the government’.

Many people have voiced the same opinion. The government law college student hostel is situated at Millers road, Kilpauk, and a visit to it and nearby areas and investigations gave startling details, which vouched for the fact that the violence is not a surprise at all and that it was waiting to happen.

Laws are sand, customs are rock. Laws can be evaded and punishment escaped, but an openly transgressed custom brings sure punishment.

— Mark Twain

When we (Reporter Ashok kumar & myself) visited Millers Road-Purasavakkam High Road junction, where the Law College Students Hostel is located and made enquiries with the general public including the people from commercial establishments and apartments, we got unsavoury information about the hostel and the students. To give some information:
  • The hostel is open 24 hrs and there is no restriction for entry and exit. Students and their ‘contacts’ can get in and come out at any point of time.

  • The domination of SC students has forced the BC students to opt for other places to stay and in the last two years, only SC students utilize the hostel facilities. Last year, when two BC students tried to get admission in the hostel, the hostel authority has discouraged them by saying that their safety cannot be assured.

  • Though the number of enrolled students is around hundred and forty, it is said that the number of occupants is always more than two hundred. The old students, who have ‘arrear-papers’ to complete and their political contacts also used to stay. Rooms are given for such ‘contacts’ on rental basis for a paltry sum and the money obtained is used for buying liquor and drugs. Liquor and drugs are freely available inside the premises.

  • The errant group of students quite often indulges in brawls with the nearby hotels and theatres and resort to violence damaging those places by attacking and stone pelting. Wooden logs, stones, sticks and all sorts of arms & weapons are stored in almost all rooms and the terrace.

  • They also indulge in rampant eve teasing and the worst affected are the girls & women in the nearby bus-stop, Garment Export Company and those women who pass by the hostel. Vulgar comments are passed on them and water from the water-packet used to be squeezed on them. Some students take bath on the terrace of the hostel and make obscene gestures coupled with booing & whistling at the girls and women of the nearby apartments and the nurses and house keeping staff of the nearby hospital.

  • Brawls used to happen even inside the campus sometimes between groups (two denominations of SC community) and they normally start at the hostel mess.

  • All sorts of sleazy & immoral activities happen inside the campus and the hostel serves as a typical ‘anti-social’ den.

  • Some genuine students from really poor background, who have come with dreams of a healthy career, are also there as inmates, but they fall in line with the unruly but influential section despite their unwillingness, as they are left with no other alternative.

The hostel authorities are also aware of all these activities, but they don’t care about them. The police cannot enter the premises and hence, there is no way by which they can have a check on the students and their activities inside the hostel. Newin Fernando, Proprietor of Motcham Theatres and Selvaraj, the Manager said, ‘our theatre is the worst affected. We built the theatre and commenced screening in 1987 and exactly on the forty-fourth day, the students from the hostel indulged in violence and arson and caused heavy damage to the theatre properties. Since then those students have been always at conflict with us. They demand only low-class tickets, but sit in high-class seats, indulge in eve-teasing the women who come to watch movies. We have also stood up against them many times. We have given written complaints to the police many times, but they prefer not to entertain us. Rarely they acknowledge our complaints in writing and even if we force them to raise FIRs, the case would stop with that, without further pursuance’. The major attacks on Motcham Theatres have been in 1987, December 1995, November 2001 and December 2001 apart from many other minor conflicts. Venkateswara Hotel, which was located nearby, has also born the brunt of the violent behaviour of the students and ultimately it had to close its shop four years back. Newin Fernando said, ‘the general public has been putting up with the nuisance of these unruly elements for a long time and days are not far off for the general public to say ‘enough is enough’ and enter the campus as a last resort to teach a fitting lesson to the students. It might turn out to be an extremely violent attack. But, before that, it would be better for the government to close this hostel and shift it to some secluded place away from the city’.

During the December 2001 violence, the police entered the hostel premises, as the situation warranted at that time, and brought it under control. A big hue and cry was made about the police action and the government had to constitute a judicial commission (Justice K S Bakthavatsalam Commission) to conduct enquiries and submit recommendations. The commission’s report, which recommended for the dropping of charges against 35 students in the guise that they hail from poor agriculturist families, was placed in the assembly on 12 February 2004. The report also said that there was nothing wrong with the entry of police inside the hostel premises and it also cited the principles laid down by the Kerala High Court in 1971. Motcham Theatres have also submitted a detailed affidavit to the said commission.

Advocate and a senior functionary in VHP, Srinivasan, who is also one of the present petitioners against the recent violence in the Dr Ambedkar government Law College, said, ‘Nothing is new in this episode. In fact, this has been going on for more than two decades. It is very unfortunate that the college management has not nipped it in the bud. It has allowed the worsening of things over the years without taking any actions on the perpetrators in the past. Many FIRs have been raised, but not a single charge sheet has been filed so far. In fact, in the last two years alone 22 FIRs have been registered! What has happened in the past must have been treated as criminal offences and the college authorities must have taken disciplinary actions, which would have helped in the long run. Suspension or dismissal of errant students in the beginning would have served as a warning for other students forcing them to refrain from indulging in violence and other offences’


Asked about a feasible solution, Advocate Srinivasan said, ‘the system of administration has to be reviewed. First time offenders must be suspended and repeaters of such grave offences must be dismissed from the college. Any issue between the students must be subjected to a thorough enquiry and disciplinary proceedings must be taken. There is no deterrent for such unsavoury activities inside the college as well as the hostel and the concerned authorities must take the responsibility for the present status. At least in future, the college authorities must approach the issues with responsibility’.

He also said, ‘Periodic checks must be done inside the hostel and preventive measures have to be formulated. A committee comprising academicians, senior advocates, government officials and retired judges must be constituted to review the administrative system and come out with recommendations for a permanent solution and those recommendations must be summarily implemented’.

A senior police officer, preferring anonymity, has said that the police have erred by not taking immediate action and preventing the violence. However, he also, listed the limitations of the police and felt that this incident has to be taken as an opportunity by the higher police officials, so that such incidents could be curbed in future. He also opined that the hostel must be shifted outside the city limits.

It is really sad that students from remote villages have been influenced by anti-social and roguish elements leading to the spoiling of their education and career. When the government provides so much of facilities such as easy admission in college, separate college, scholarships and many others, the students lead an irresponsible life without utilising all those facilities.

Hatred does not cease through hatred at any time. Hatred ceases through love. This is an unalterable law.
— Buddha

In the meantime, a fact-finding committee comprising educationists and human rights activists (Prof A Marx, Shivakumar and others) has come out with the following findings:

  • The college is under the control of students belonging to Mukkulaththor (BC) community.
  • The hostel, with 149 dalit students, is under the complete grip of SC community people. Other BC students are not allowed to get admission in the hostel.
  • The BC students formed ‘Mukkulaththor Manavargal sangam’ (BC Students Union) four years back and since then there has been feuds between the BC and SC students.
  • The BC students celebrated ‘Thevar Jayanthi’ inside the college premises by printing posters without the name of Dr Ambedkar. A feud broke out consequently and the BC students decided not to allow the SC students to write the semester examinations.
  • Anticipating problems, the college principal Sridev (he was the warden of the hostel previously) informed the Esplanade Station police over phone and as there was no proper response, he went personally and gave a written complaint. However, the police deny it.
  • The principal has involved Armstrong, an Advocate and Councillor from Bahujan Samaj Party and another Advocate Rajinikanth, as they were supposed to have a credible influence over the students.
  • Rajinikanth, though a neutral person, could not do much to solve the issue.
  • The BC students started the attack first and the arrival of Armstrong has worsened the situation. Immediately after the exit of Armstrong, a battery of hostel students got into the college and wreaked havoc.
  • The police have remained silent due to instructions from powerful places.
  • Though the BC student was the first to carry knife, he was not charged under attempt to murder section, while SC students are charged under attempt to murder sections. This shows the biased approach of the government.

It is extremely painful that the students have involved literally in a war in the name of Pon Muthuramalinga Thevar and Dr Ambedkar. Muthuramalinga Thevar was a great patriot and a disciple of Nethaji. He was also a spiritualist. On the other hand, Dr Ambedkar was also a great patriot and a scholar. He was dead against the concocted story of Aryan-Dravidian divide. Both of them have toiled throughout their lives for eradicating caste discriminations and untouchability and they cannot be confined to specific communities. They are revered and admired by all Indians irrespective of caste, colour or creed. Had they been alive they would have felt shocked and saddened at this kind of caste violence among the student community. In the first place, they would not have allowed such a degeneration of society.

The student community must realise their mistakes and unite together taking the dreams of their parents and their own career dreams into consideration. They must free themselves from the ‘self-styled’ and politically influential advocates, caste leaders and politicians and ignore them totally. Once the student community unites, there will be no place for anti-social and anti-national elements and vested interests. The students must understand that they owe a lot to their parents and teachers and act accordingly. The government, for its part, must consider the present issue as an opportunity and work towards a permanent solution.

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