Indian state leader in hot water over Thamilselvan poem

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CHENNAI, India, Nov 15, 2007 (AFP) – The leader of a southern Indian state is facing allegations of treason after writing a poem mourning the killing in nearby Sri Lanka of a senior rebel and fellow ethnic Tamil.

M. Karunanidhi, the chief minister of Tamil Nadu state, was last week so moved by the death of the Tamil Tiger’s political chief in a Sri Lankan government air raid that he circulated a poem.

“A face that was ever-smiling… a youthful man with a heart as strong as the Himalayas… a noble youth who deemed his life but a bit of manure for the liberation struggle,” he wrote of the rebels’ late number-two, S.P. Thamilselvan.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), however, are considered a terrorist organisation in India and are held responsible for the 1991 murder of former Indian premier Rajiv Gandhi.

“It was a Tamil who was killed in Sri Lanka and it is the Tamil blood that runs in my veins too,” Karunanidhi said, justifying his poem.

The octogenarian chief minister’s poem has also prompted pro-LTTE rallies in Tamil Nadu state as well as demands for New Delhi to stop its military assistance to Colombo in its fight against the ethnic separatist Tigers.

But the state’s m