TN lawyers' protest turns ugly

Karunanidhis presence at function angers advocates

TN lawyers' protest turns ugly

Lawyers trying to break a camera belonging to a private TV channel during their protest against Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi in Chennai on Sunday. PTI

The incident, which took place shortly after Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan formally unveiled the statue, seemed to have sprung from the lingering lawyers-State standoff since the February 19 clash on the High Court campus last year. Even as Karunanidhi began to speak, a small group of lawyers at the rear who resented his presence stood up, pulled out pieces of black cloth and waved them in protest shouting slogans in Tamil, “Anumadhiyom, Anumadhiyom (we will not allow).” The lawyers, whom police later identified as being affiliated to the “Makkal Kalai Ilakiya Kazhagam,” a fringe CPI-ML outfit, were learnt to be protesting against the ruling DMK for not yet taking any action against the police officials responsible for the deadly attack in the High Court last year.

While the Madras High Court Advocates Association had promised its full cooperation for Sunday’s event—even its president and senior lawyer Paul Kanakaraj was on the dais along with the other dignitaries—the dissenting lawyers openly protested.

But the chief minister refused to budge and boldly went on with his speech asserting: “I will not be cowed down by any attempt to derail democracy by uncivil and crude means though there is always space for differences in a democracy.”

Another group of lawyers tried to shout their colleagues down. There was a brief commotion when scores of plastic chairs were hurled against the protesting lawyers. Some goons in lawyers’ attire were also allegedly part of the pro-DMK lawyers’ group who had trickled in anticipating trouble, and hit back when their leader was not allowed to speak at the function.

At least 10 people, including some of the protesting lawyers and some camera-persons, were injured and their cameras smashed, in the melee. Photographers were also chased away. A complaint was lodged.

Besides the Chief Justice of India, Union Law Minister Veerappa Moily, Madras HC Chief Justice H L Gokhale several judges and other dignitaries participated in the function which later concluded peacefully.

Police presence at the venue was modest considering their numbers had evoked controversy in the past. But a police official at the spot said that it was the protesting lawyers’ verbal abuse which led to the pro-DMK lawyers’ reaction. The five lawyers who waved black flags have been admitted to hospital and they would be arrested, he added.

The Madras Union of Journalists has condemned the attack on mediapersons and urged the government to compensate the injured journalists and their damaged equipment.

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