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Indian Party Quits Ruling Coalition - 2003-12-20

A southern Indian political party has decided to quit the coalition government headed by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to protest a tough federal anti-terrorism law it says is being abused.

The regional Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) party says its two cabinet ministers (Environment and Forest Minister T.R. Baalu and Junior Health Minister A. Raja) will resign from the government.

The Tamil Nadu party will continue to support the government on a case by case basis, and officials say the party's departure does not threaten the federal government.

The Indian anti terrorism bill, which was approved in March of last year sets strict rules for the arrest, interrogation and investigation of suspected terrorists. It allows suspects to be detained for 30 days without a court appearance.

Minority Muslim leaders and civil rights groups say the law has been used disproportionately against India's Muslim minority.