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The context was different but the events were similar. In the film Jai Bhim, an innocent Irular man is tortured for hours in the police station after he is held on a false charge of theft. Finally, a stomp on his chest by a police boot turns fatal and the man dies. As Tamil Nadu chief minister MK Stalin sat watching the scene, he was transported to a time during the Emergency when he faced police torture. Chitti Babu, a party man, took many of the blows intended for Karunanidhi’s son. The blows turned out to be fatal and Chitti Babu died.

In the year 1976, as chief minister M Karunanidhi decided to oppose the Emergency, his government was dismissed. Across the state, DMK partymen and leaders were arrested.

Police came looking for MK Stalin at his house who had gone to act in a play, “Murasey Muzhangu”, in Maduranthangam. When the 23-year-old Stalin came home after the play, the police were waiting for him. Stalin had been married for five months.

Stalin’s cellmate was fellow partyman Chitti Babu. One night, the police turned on Stalin with ferocity. It seemed they were out to do something. As the policemen started to rain blows, Chitti Babu came in between them and took them on himself.

Chitti Babu was hospitalized and surgery performed on him on his stomach. In March of 1977, surgery was repeated. That too didn’t help. Chitti Babu died two days later.

Stalin has recalled that as he lay down half-conscious, some policemen came to stomp on his stomach. His friend Chitti Babu pleaded with the policemen and lay down on him so he could take the blows. Chitti Babu was severely injured and was taken to hospital. In prison, Stalin and fellow partymen received the news that surgery had been done on Chitti Babu but he had died. Only when Emergency was over all this came to light.

Born in 1935 in Tindivanam, C Chitti Babu obtained a diploma in automobile engineering at the government polytechnic in Chennai. He was an ardent Dravidianist and partyman. At 23, he became a councillor in the Chennai Corporation.

In 1965, he was elected as the 29th mayor of Madras Corporation. Chitti Babu was elected to Parliament in 1967 and 1971 from Chengalpattu constitutency. He was editing an English publication called Home Rule. Stalin and Chitti Babu produced a film called Nambikkai Natchathiram.

Chitti Babu’s prison diaries have been published as a book. M Karunanidhi has described the events in his autobiography Nenjukku Needhi. Stalin has recalled these incidents many times.

Stalin has said that the torture that prison warders inflicted on him survives to this day on his body in the form of a scar on his right hand. That scar must have come back to life as Stalin watched Jai Bhim.

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