To see Sasikala go to jail: Why an engineer and many others queued up at a Bengaluru prison

From idle curiosity to righteous satisfaction to heartbreak, a whole range of emotions was writ on the crowd outside the prison.
To see Sasikala go to jail: Why an engineer and many others queued up at a Bengaluru prison
To see Sasikala go to jail: Why an engineer and many others queued up at a Bengaluru prison
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30-year-old Kumar, a Tamilian born in Chennai, works as a software engineer in Bengaluru. While his Wednesday began like any other workday, Kumar had made sure nothing could intervene on his plans for the afternoon and evening.

Kumar had specially taken permission to skip the second half of the day, so that he could plant himself outside the Parappana Agrahara prison in Bengaluru. After all, it’s not every day that one gets a chance to see a powerful figure like AIADMK General Secretary VK Sasikala go to prison, and Kumar made sure he had a ringside view of all the action.  

Kumar wasn’t there to show solidarity to Sasikala, which was quite apparent from the way he chose to set up his spot far away from the party cadres in white. Instead, Kumar settled down on a chair he found nearby near barricades put up by the police some 600 metres away from the prison.

As he waited for Sasikala to surrender herself at the prison 24 hours after the Supreme Court convicted her, her sister-in-law Ilavarasi and her nephew Sudhakaran in the Disproportionate Assets case, Kumar wore a smile on his face. And the smile grew wider as he watched the vehicle  carrying Sasikala enter the gates of the prison.

Claiming to be apolitical, Kumar observed that such a scenario would never have occurred if the late Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa (also found guilty by the SC in the case) were alive.

“Jayalalithaa would have manipulated the case. Sasikala and the other accused would never have been put behind bars if Jayalalithaa was alive. Now that there is a political crisis, Tamil Nadu will see an election in the next six months and DMK will come to power,” Kumar says.

Another figure who stood out in the crowd of party cadres and numerous journalists with their cameras and mics, is 68-year-old MK Dhar.

The retired BSNL employee said he knows little about Tamil Nadu politics, but dropped in to see what the hype is all about. After all, the prison was just a short distance from his house. 

"I have not been following TN politics but I know that Sasikala is to be brought here in sometime. I am on my routine evening walk and decided to halt for a few minutes to know what the hype is all about," Dhar said. 

55-year-old Shantimurugan (name changed on request), a policeman on duty outside the jail, has a small smile on his face as he directs the crowd. 28 years into service, he says has seen other politicians being brought to prison before. Indeed, Shantimurugan was one of the policemen on duty when Jayalalithaa was brought to the same prison three years ago.

“The situation today is nothing like it was then,” Shantimurugan declared.

“When Jayalalithaa was brought to the prison, party cadres rushed to the jail in large numbers and we had a tough time controlling the crowd. It was also a big deal for the media people. But this is nothing – Who is Sasikala? She is just another woman prisoner. Jayalalalithaa was the CM of a state and warranted devotion and a fan-following to that degree. But not Sasikala. If she had been CM for at least a week, maybe things would have been different,” the officer comments.

The crowd is not filled entirely with sceptics, however. There are figures like MG Manivannan, Chairman of the Tamil Nadu Co-operative Silk Production Federation, who knew he had to be present at the jail to show support for Sasikala.

Holding up photographs of Jayalalithaa and Sasikala, Manivannan didn’t have very much to say. But his gestures and body language more than conveyed to the rest of the crowd why he, and the  several other AIADMK supporters around him were lined up outside the jail.

 Stopping briefly on his way into the jail, Karnataka AIADMK secretary V Pugazhendi had said that the cadres were waiting outside the jail so that they could get at least a glimpse of Sasikala.

 Long after the convoy carrying Sasikala had zoomed past him and disappeared, Kumar continued to look in the direction Sasikala had gone. 

Kumar asserted that the educated apolitical youth of Tamil Nadu have often voted for the DMK, knowing that, “they are corrupt too.” 

“But even if they are corrupt, they end up doing something for the people. And then the rest does not matter. AIADMK rule is nothing like that. People of TN supported Jayalalithaa and now Sasikala because we are emotional people. We cannot see women in pain at all,” Kumar declares.

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