Taking strong exception to an alleged derogatory article about her on the Sri Lankan defence website, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa today accused it of trying to create fissures in India’s federal polity as she demanded an unconditional apology from Colombo for the insinuations against her.
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi hours after the controversy broke out, leading to a furore in Tamil Nadu’s political circles, she said that it also depicted him in a ‘disrespectful manner.’
She said it was brought to her notice that the article, titled ‘How meaningful are Jayalalithaa’s love letters to Narendra Modi’ had been published in the website of Ministry of Defence and Urban Development of Sri Lanka.
Though the article had been removed following an outcry in her state, ‘the damage has been done,’ she told Modi.
She urged Modi to immediately direct the External Affairs Ministry to summon the Sri Lankan High Commissioner and ‘clearly express India’s displeasure’ over the manner in which the article was hosted and “seek an unconditional apology from the Government of Sri Lanka.”
“The visual rendering on the homepage of the official website just above the link is highly objectionable as it depicted both the Prime Minister of India and Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu (herself) in a very trivialized, derogatory and disrespectful manner,” she said in a letter to Modi.
She said the article contained certain unwarranted and unfounded comments about her consistently taking up issues such as the arrest of Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan navy, including her strident stand against ceding of Katchatheevu,an islet, to Sri Lanka by way of two agreements in 1974 and 1976.
“This is a livelihood issue for lakhs of fishermen families in my state whose cause I have been espousing and will continue to espouse strongly,” she said.
Jayalalithaa said her refusal to accept the ceding of Katchatheevu was based on legal grounds.
The article ascribed motives to her without any basis, including the ‘insinuation’ that she had demanded the release of boats from Lankan custody as “some of these may belong to her or her supporters,” she said, citing from the article.
“The article also tries to mischievously create fissures within India’s federal polity where none exist through statements like ‘obviously she is attempting to dent the popularity of the Indian Prime Minister’,” she said.
Jayalalithaa said she as a public political figure had faced criticism and comments but this was a “blatant attempt to ridicule and trivialize the untiring efforts made by a democratically elected leader to resolve an important livelihood issue of fishermen of Tamil Nadu.”
It was ‘completely unacceptable’ that a highly objectionable article was published on the official website, she said.
“The added visual image on the website is clearly aimed at denigrating the elected leaders of India, the world’s largest democracy, and particularly a 66 year-old woman political leader of many years’ standing. These are affronts to India which cannot be ignored or lighlty brushed aside,” she added.
She said while there was a disclaimer that the Defence Ministry bears no responsibility for the ideas in an Op-Ed page where the article was published, the ‘reprehensible visual’ indicated that the views were not necessarily that of the author but the government itself.