Monday, September 10, 2012

Douse the fires in Tamil Nadu: The Sunday Leader Editorial


Tamil Nadu leading politicians and their racial extremists have been whipping up an anti Sri Lanka frenzy in recent weeks. This outcry in the 65 million populous South Indian state had resulted in scheduled joint military exercises between India and Sri Lanka being put on hold while pressure is still on the New Delhi government to expel Sri Lankan military personnel being trained in Indian military establishments throughout the country. The Internet blog World Post has reported that 45O such Sri Lankans are being trained.
Bouts of anti Sri Lanka frenzy in Tamil Nadu had been of regular frequency in the past three decades and the current frenzy which picked up after the defeat of  the LTTE and the killing of Velupillai Prabhakaran continues even three years after the event.
Tamil Nadu leaders and their supporters can to a certain extent justify these anti Lanka demonstrations. Firstly, they cite allegations made by the international community on alleged war crimes committed by Lanka’s armed forces during the last phase of the conflict with the LTTE and the Lankan government’s prevarication on demands made by UN officials and Western governments to conduct independent investigations into the allegations. The second charge is that thousands of Tamil youth are being held in detention camps for years without being brought to trial.
The efforts of the Rajapaksa government in rehabilitating an estimated 300,000 IDPs and demining large tracts of land in the north and east are being ignored.
Detailed and learned expositions of learned apologists for the Rajapaksa government such as what happened in Abu Ghraib and the continuation of holding prisoners of ‘rendition’ at the American base in Guantanamo as justification do not convince many because simple logic  contends that two or more wrongs do not make a right. Might is right even in the 21st Century of Democracy and little Lanka has neither the economic nor military might to flex any muscles like the mighty powers.
The Indian government is not caving into Tamil Nadu pressures and/or compulsions for at least two reasons. Firstly, as an aspiring regional power and even world power (India is staking claims for a seat at the United Nations Security Council with VETO power) it cannot afford to behave like a potty state interfering in the internal affairs of its little neighbours. Secondly, Tamil Nadu leaders are also attempting to use the Sri Lankan issue to demonstrate that Tamil (Dravidian) interests are being submerged in the interests of Northern hegemony.
Tamil Nadu was the first Indian state after Indian Independence in which the cry of separatism arose. The two current leading parties in Tamil Nadu, the DMK (Dravida Munnetra Khazagam) and the AIDMK (Anna Munnetra Khazagam) have their roots in the original DK (Dravida Kazagam) which drew a distinction from the Hindi-Brahmin dominated North and Dravidian South) and rejected domination by Hindi speaking Northerners. The roots go deep into Tamil Nadu politics and Tamil nationalism surfaces when its leaders feel that the New Delhi government is showing scant respect for the South.
The two leaders of Tamil Nadu octogenarian Muthuvel Karunanidhi, who has been the Chief Minister of the state thrice (but was routed at the recent state assembly elections) and Jeyaram Jeyalalitha, the aging film actress leading the AIDMK, are battling it out to exploit the cause of the LTTE for support from the electorate and to bend the Sonia Gandhi government to yield to their specific demands.
The deplorable standards of Tamil Nadu politics are all very apparent but Sri Lanka for whatever reasons cannot look way. Time and again it has proved disastrous as in 1987 when Indian troops landed in Sri Lanka and were here for two years. Lankan political pundits have often and quite correctly said that the most important political outpost for this country is Chennai but Colombo has not done anything about it or has tried but been unable to do so. Worse still, it has antagonised New Delhi which can keep Chennai on a leash and even done the impossible of making India (our traditional ally in the field of diplomacy) to turn against Sri Lanka as was seen when India voted  for an American resolution at the last sessions of the UNHRC calling for investigations into alleged violation of human rights (of Tamils) by Sri Lanka.
It can be expected that when the UNHRC meets again in Geneva in November to review the progress made into investigations and address allegations made, Tamil Nadu leaders will strongly urge the Sonia Gandhi government to drag this country through the mire. Such will be the consequences of the antics of those like Vaiko whom most Sinhalese consider to be comedians.
However much the Sri Lankan government may wish to stand on its dignity and be ostrich-like burying its head in the sand, denying the allegations of Tamil Nadu and if the situation is not to be allowed to deteriorate further the issues raised must be addressed. Justice must be done to hundreds of Tamil youths now held for years in custody by bringing them to trial or to release them if there is no evidence against them that is acceptable to courts of law.
True the vital issue of national security remains. But can a democratic country keep thousands of its citizens behind bars for an indeterminate time? We are not the sole superpower on earth to thumb our noses at our accusers and ask them to ‘go fly a kite’. The issue of alleged violation of human rights by Sri Lanka has gone too far down the road to block it on the principle of non interference in the internal affairs of a country. Let the investigations on issues called for by the LLRC (the committee appointed by the government) be investigated thoroughly and the findings made available to those concerned.
Finally let not the spirit of Non Alignment attempted to be re-kindled at Tehran go into our heads and make us lose our sense of reality. Little Lanka has been like Sancho Panza tilting at the windmills by taking on the big powers. For a start let us begin with New Delhi and resolve the issues and douse the fires in Tamil Nadu lest it engulf us.

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