The escalating war of words between the ruling and opposition alliance partners on various issues including the local body elections was a talking point in the state’s political circle. The 43rd Annual Book Fair underway in Chennai was marred by a controversy over the arrest of a publisher for selling books reportedly exposing corruption of the government and the subsequent boycott by renowned writers of scheduled events. The state may also face another round of protest against the allocation of hydrocarbon block in ultra deep water region in the eastern coast as it can affect the fishing community and the environment. NewsClick presents a round-up of the events in Tamil Nadu this week.
WAR OF WORDS AMONG ALLIES
The week saw an escalating war of words among the alliance partners in both the fronts. The leaders of the Congress and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) were involved in an intense battle of words after the elections to the rural local bodies concluded. The Congress president accused the DMK of betrayal in the indirect elections to posts of presidents and vice presidents for the district and union councils. The intensity of the exchange was such that the DMK treasurer Durai Murugan announced that his party is not worried of Congress leaving the alliance. Members of Parliament from Congress, Karti Chidambaram and Manickam Tagore, too, joined the war of words accusing Durai Murugan for the escalation of tension among the parties. It required a meeting of the chief of both the parties to de-escalate the tension. Ironically, the Congress sided with the most unlikely ally, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Kanyakumari district in two union councils and shared the posts of president and vice presidents by defeating the DMK and Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)] candidates.
The All India Anna Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and BJP are fighting against each other after a policeman was shot dead by two men in a checkpost bordering Tamil Nadu and Kerala who are now detained under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. The former Union Minister P Radhakrishnan criticised the state government for the deteriorating law and order situation. For this, the Minister of Fisheries referred to the awards given to the state government by the union government as recognition for the functioning of the state government. The AIADMK has started reacting directly to the criticism of the BJP, raising questions over the continuance of the alliance.
CONTROVERSIES MAR CHENNAI BOOK FAIR
The 43rd Annual Chennai Book Fair also ran into unprecedented controversies this year. The Book Sellers and Publishers Association of South India (BAPASI) had ordered for the removal of a stall reportedly selling books which exposed the alleged corruptions in the state government. This was followed by the arrest of the publisher Anbazhagan, who is also a journalist, allegedly after complaints from office bearers of BAPASI. The move of removing the book stall and the subsequent arrest were condemned strongly by political parties, writers’ and journalists’ forum.
Also read: Journalist Arrested in Chennai for Selling Book Criticising Government
The regular evening meets in the book fair saw number of writers boycotting the event. CPI(M) MP and Sahitya Academy award winner, S Venkatesan, denied to speak about the topic given to him as a mark of protest. He criticised the actions of BAPASI and called the move as a step towards curbing freedom of expression. The Tamil Nadu Progressive Writers’ and Artists’ Association (TPWAA) condemned the move of the BAPASI and demanded the organisation to withdraw all actions taken. Many journalists and writers also took out a rally inside the exhibition hall against the move of the BAPASI.
AUCTION FOR HYDROCARBON EXTRACTION
The fifth round of auctioning for 11 hydrocarbon blocks in eight sedimentary basins has been announced by the Directorate of Hydrocarbons (DGH). One ultra deep water basin in the Easter coast adjoining the Cauvery basin for an area of 4064.22 sq km is also up for grabs. The other eight onland segments are spread across Rajasthan, Gujarat, West Bengal, Assam while two remaining offshore segments are in Eastern and Western coast areas. The policy decision of promoting electric vehicles on one side and continuous and massive exploration of hydrocarbons have sent confusing signals to automobile manufacturers also.
The Modi government’s Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy (HELP) does not mandate any public hearing for offshore exploration which have sent the alarm bells ringing for the fishing community of Tamil Nadu. Several fishing villages have been protesting against the construction of storage units for the hydrocarbons along the sea shore fearing their access to the shore and sea. Any spillage of oil in the sea may cause massive loss of aquaculture and thus, could affect the livelihoods of the fisherfolks. It has to be noted that the farmers of delta districts continue to protest against the repeated oil spillages damaging their crops and fertility of the land.
CAA PROTESTS CONTINUE
The protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act continued across the state with participation from various civil society organisations, youth and student organisations. The protesters who were conducting daily protests in Valluvar Kottam in Chennai were detained by the police on January 13 leading to a scuffle between the protesters and the police.
The CPI(M), TPWAA and an umbrella organisation of disabled persons have called for a statewide movement to read the Preamble of Indian constitution on different days including January 23 and January 26. They are aiming to expose the BJP-led government’s agenda behind the amendment to the Citizenship Act.
Also read: Fifth Round of Bidding Announced for Hydrocarbon Exploration