Send me jet, I'll bring you sandals: Assange to Mayawati

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London:  They're unlikely sparring partners. And yet, Mayawati and Julian Assange are now engaging in some not-so-friendly fire.

This morning, at a press conference, the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister said that the WikiLeaks cables that refer to her appear to be inauthentic. The fact that Mr Assange posted them on his website, she said, shows that he is either mentally ill or is being used by her political opponents. "He has gone mad," she said. "If there is no room to treat him elsewhere, let him come to Agra...we will find him some space at the mental asylum there."

Mr Assange responded a few hours later. In a statement sent to the press, he said, "I ask that Mayawati admit her error and apologise. Should she fail to do so, she is welcome to send her private jet to England to collect me, where I have been detained against my will, under house arrest, for the last 272 days. I would be happy to accept asylum, political asylum, in India - a nation I love. In return, I will bring Mayawati a range of the finest British footwear."

A series of diplomatic cables that have been released recently by WikiLeaks show US embassy officials trying to figure out just what makes Mayawati tick. The cables were sent to Washington in May 2007, shortly after Mayawati was re-elected. Political officers from the American embassy travelled to different parts of UP to speak to journalists, businessmen and others about their impressions of the Chief Minister. The portrait that emerges is not flattering. One cable, titled Portrait of Lady, says informal conversations depicted Mayawati as a paranoid dictator. Different accounts by journalists and others have Mayawati punishing a minister by asking him to do sit-ups, sending a private plane to Mumbai to fetch her preferred brand of sandals, and using nine cooks and two tasters to thwart attempts to poison her.

"Mayawati has betrayed rational thought. The question is, has she also betrayed the Dalit?" Mr Assange asks in his statement. "There is no question that the documents are official papers from the US embassy. These papers have been proven the world over, including by the aggressive persecution of our people by Washington. The allegations within them are made by US diplomats in their private communications back to Hillary Clinton. If chief minister Mayawati has a problem with the contents of these communications, she needs to take it up with Hilary."


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