Karunanidhi stands by his hunger strike

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Chennai, Oct 1: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi today said that his hunger strike did not go against the Supreme Court directive. Karunanidhi, along with leaders of the of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), observed a daylong hunger strike today for a speedy implementation of the Sethusamudram project.

"We have not received any orders against the hunger strike. We have followed the Supreme Court orders," Karunanidhi told reporters in Chennai.

A "virtual shutdown" prevailed in Tamil Nadu today. Public transport was off the road and shutters were downed in most cities. The Southern Railways was operating only skeletal services.

"Since the Sethusamudram project was not initiated, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister had called for a hunger strike. The strike has been successful," said Ravi, a DMK activist.

Meanwhile, in Varanasi, pro-Ram Setu activists staged a demonstration against Karunanidhi for his remarks questioning the existence of Lord Ram.

The demonstrators also burnt an effigy of Karunanidhi.

Earlier today, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) demanded the dismissal of the DMK Government and imposition of President's rule in Tamil Nadu for not following the directive of the Supreme Court against a shutdown, which was called by the DMK.

The BJP said "the DMK has no right to be in the government", for not implementing the directive of the Supreme Court.

BJP president Rajnath Singh said: "BJP supports the observation of the Supreme Court. We have said earlier as well that on the basis of the situation in Tamil Nadu, President's Rule should be implemented there. When DMK called for the shutdown, the Supreme Court said that it should not be implemented forcefully. But the situation in Tamil Nadu shows that the DMK has no right to be in government."

On the other hand, Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Priyaranjan Dasmunsi today ruled out the dismissal of the State Government for not observing the Supreme Court directive.

Justifying the hunger strike of Karunanidhi, Dasmunsi said: "He is a great leader and he was simply emulating the Gandhian tradition of expressing his resentment."

Dasmunsi's remarks came in the wake of the Supreme Court's stern order earlier today cautioning the Tamil Nadu Government for flouting its order as Karunanidhi went on a daylong hunger strike.

Warning the State Government of initiating Contempt of Court proceedings, a Bench headed by acting Chief Justice B N Aggarwal and Justice P Sathasivam said: "If there is no compliance with our order, it is complete breakdown of Constitutional machinery. We will then have to direct the government to impose President's rule."

"The issue was not discussed by the Union Cabinet. But I can tell you that there is no question of dismissing the Tamil Nadu government," Dasmunsi told reporters.

The counsel of the AIADMK, which had challenged the shutdown call, told the court about the shutdown-like situation in the State. To this, the court said: "You can file a contempt petition."

"Is this the government? Is this the Tamil Nadu government? Is it the DMK government, a strong ally of the UPA government? If this is the attitude of the DMK government, the UPA government should not feel shy of dismissing it and impose President's Rule," the court observed.

Hearing a Special Leave Petition filed by opposition AIADMK, the apex court on Sunday stayed a shutdown scheduled for today or any other day by the DMK for early completion of the Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project.

Soon after yesterday's ruling, Chief Minister Karunanidhi decided to go on a day-long fast.

The apex court yesterday ruled that the proposed shutdown was unconstitutional, and if observed, it could go against the court's directive on the issue.

The AIADMK in its petition contended that the shutdown call was unwarranted, as the matter relating to the canal project is already pending before the Supreme Court.

A row erupted after the Centre filed an affidavit before the apex court in connection with the ship lane project, saying that Hinduism's most important texts were not proof of the existence of Hindu gods.

The government had to backtrack on the affidavit the next day following vociferous protests. They sought three months time from the apex court to file an amended affidavit.

The Sethusamudram Project will dredge a channel in a narrow strip of sea between India and Sri Lanka, reducing distances and cutting costs for freight traffic for ships moving from Arabian Sea to Bay of Bengal.

However, Hindu groups have been opposing the 560 million dollars project, saying it would destroy the 'holy' Ram Sethu, a 48-kilometre chain of limestone shoals that once linked Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu to Mannar in Sri Lanka.

According to the Central Government, research has shown that the Ram Setu was a series of sand shoals created by sedimentation, but according to Hindus the narrow link, also known as Adam's Bridge, was built by Lord Rama.

Dredging for the project began in 2005 and the channel -- 12 metres deep, 300 metres wide and almost 90 km long -- will provide a crucial link between the Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar.



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