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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Tamil Nadu’s political gimmicks

By Wilson Gnanadass
Commencing with an all party protest fast initiated by the Indian Communist party, the month of October had been a hectic one for the state of Tamil Nadu in India.

The protest fast was concerning the plight of Sri Lankan Tamils in the north.Besides, the Minister of Local Governance and Deputy Treasurer of the DMK, M.K. Stalin has also called for a human chain protest on Tuesday 21, in Chennai, against what he described as, ‘atrocities against the innocent Tamils in the north of Sri Lanka’.

Last week’s resignation of Raj Sabah member and daughter of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Ms. Kanimozhi , over the Tamil issue in Sri Lanka, has also been a significant event in the history of Indian politics.

In a significant move amid the growing momentum in Tamil Nadu, where Tamil party leaders are up in arms against the Sri Lankan Government’s decision to deal with the LTTE militarily, the former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and the leader of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam J. Jayalalitha also extended her support to a fasting campaign organised by the Communist Party of India (CPI).
In a letter addressed to the CPI General Secretary D. Pandyan, Jayalalitha indicated that her party extended, ‘wholehearted’ support to the success of the campaign.


Political analysts have been rather skeptical about the sudden transformation of Jayalalitha, who has been a long standing rival of the LTTE.
Her change of stance in this instance is viewed from a political platform, as a mere change to throw a challenge to her arch rival and Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu M. Karunanidhi.
In her letter, Jayalalitha has initially put pressure on the DMK led by Karunanidhi, by describing the all party meeting summoned by him, as a ‘drama’, while also boycotting the meeting.

In retaliation, Karunanidhi has now planned to organise the Human Chain protest on Tuesday 21.
Karunanidhi has told the Indian media that the agitation would demand the fulfillment of the demands including sending food and medicine to the displaced Tamil population through the International Red Cross Society.

He has also said that the Human Chain protest is expected to be a ‘massive protest’ that would express the sentiments of the entire population of the Tamil Nadu, since people from all the districts are expected to participate.

His rival Ms. Jayalalitha in a ridiculing statement has said that when Karunanidhi, should be in reality protesting against the Central Government for training Sri Lankan military and should be voicing his concern over the civilian population caught in LTTE areas, he was only demanding that the war be stopped.

It is clearly understood that Tamil Nadu, while becoming hyper-sensitive to this issue, is also divided by it, with both powerful politicians locking horns, and trying to gain some mileage from an issue that keeps burning several miles away from their homes.

Political gimmick

India is only about six months ahead of an election and political parties are already finding ways and means to make mountains out of molehills.
Questions are raised as to whether the military engagement of the Sri Lankan troops to fight the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), has been taken out of context by the Tamil Nadu political parties as their campaign slogan.

Many political analysts have confirmed that the issue raised by the Tamil Nadu is certainly a political gimmick as commonly described in Sri Lanka as ‘political gundu’.
However they (analysts) also argue that elections are all about issues and slogans and therefore come to the conclusion that this issue of the north east conflict, could from now onwards, be a serious matter in India.
In the history of politics, election gimmicks have brought many solutions as elections are fought on issues.

Serious queries are therefore raised as to whether the present campaign in the Tamil Nadu could lead to a permanent decision by the Indian government not to involve herself in the Sri Lankan war.
The lawyers in India from another platform are mounting much pressure on the Central Government saying the Centre should stop its military assistance to Sri Lanka.

Many Sri Lankan political analysts believe the Indian Government will at least react to this demand of the Tamil Nadu lawyers to restrict its involvement in the Sri Lankan war temporarily, until the heat settles down in the TN.

“Otherwise, the Indian Government will not exert overt pressure on Sri Lanka in her pursuit to crush the LTTE,” they opined.

Sudden upsurge

It has been seen that whenever civilians in the north-east became sandwiched between the LTTE and the Government troops, Tamil Nadu becomes politically active and aggressive.
The massive movements that had joined hands together today in Tamil Nadu in support of the LTTE, never existed when the war was on in 1995.

At that time, the then President Chandrika Kumaratunga, while fighting the LTTE, also offered a substantial political package that was far beyond even the 13th Amendment. However this did not materialise as the LTTE opted to fight.
Though only smaller parties in the Tamil Nadu have been supportive of the LTTE, and had been raising sporadic concern about the north east situation, bigger parties have never joined them in the past. This was because successive Sri Lankan Governments had placed before the people a package to solve the north east crisis. This method however did not weaken the LTTE.

The present Government under President Mahinda Rajapaksa has for the first time taken a different approach – to deal with the LTTE militarily until they are weakened and then pursue negotiations.
The President’s approach to a political settlement has also not so far been successful due to the time factor.

The All Party Representative Committee (APRC) that was appointed to find a solution has unfortunately not completed its target, thus giving the impression to the outside world that the incumbent government is only hell bent on finding a military solution.

However, the delay in finding a political solution has raised concern and suspicion in the minds of the people living in Tamil Nadu. They believe, if LTTE is eliminated the Tamils will have no representation: a claim, Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama has already refuted to the international community.
In his statement to Parliament as well during his recent visit to Australia, Bogollagama clearly stated that the LTTE did not represent the Tamil community.


The reaction of the Sri Lankan Government has been noteworthy. The Government has said that it has taken serious note of the message that was sent by the Indian Premier Dr. Manmohan Singh that it was both concerned and unhappy at the plight of the Tamil civilians in the north, where armed forces are locked in battle with the LTTE.

The Government also maintains that India has been to a great extent misled by LTTE propaganda, and has said that civilian casualty had been kept at minimum.
Having said this, the Government has also informed India that military offensive against the LTTE would continue, while at the same time it will take every measure to protect the civilians.

To Constitution Affairs Minister D.E.W.Gunesekara the Indian factor in relation to the national question has two aspects; one is the Tamil Nadu politics and the other is the Geo politics.
He says the Tamil Nadu factor arises because of the close links the Tamils of the north have with the Tamils of the Tamil Nadu. He says whatever takes place in Tamil Nadu has a spill over effect in the north of Sri Lanka.

In this instance, he says that when the LTTE is isolated or cornered, nationalist feelings do arise in the Tamil Nadu, and the pro LTTE elements in the Tamil Nadu are bound to exploit this situation.
He pointed out that this development was taking place on the eve of the Lok Sabah elections, and the two major parties in the TN who vie for power are engaged in a fierce competition to woo the Tamil voters.

“At this juncture when some elements go to India and say that many Tamils are killed and isolated then obviously political parties become very concerned. But the Indian government for the last two decades has been very fair. Even after Tamil Nadu’s pressure, the Centre, while expressing concern, had only requested the UPFA Government to expedite a political solution,” he said.

India’s own problems

India is also engulfed with several issues that are yet to be ironed out.
India has enough problems with her neighbour Pakistan on the Kashmir issue.
Understandably former Pakistan President Gen. Pervez Musharaf and the Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh almost came to an agreement on the Kashmir issue, but Musharaf’s exit has again kept the issue alive, with both countries continuing to frown upon each other.

Besides, there are other problems that are still not answered. Within the country, there is a religious conflict that is raising its ugly head in India. Several churches have been damaged and preachers killed.
Therefore, it is unlikely that India would overtly exert pressure or directly interfere in the Sri Lankan conflict at present.

Tamil Nadu’s blunder

While fittingly raising the issue about the war in Sri Lanka, the Tamil Nadu has however failed to hit the nail on the correct place.
The concerns about the northern war have raised much suspicion about the Tamil Nadu’s sympathy to the LTTE.
Why, for example, did Karunanidhi, while insisting that the Sri Lankan Government should stop all forms of military operations against the LTTE, also not use the same fingers to point at the LTTE for taking several thousands of civilians hostage?

This has annoyed Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF ) leader V. Anandasangari who says the Indian Government has no business to tell the Sri Lankan Government to stop the war.
He explained that while the Indian concern for the civilians cannot be ignored, the Indian pressure to stop the war against the LTTE can easily be ignored.

Instead, he argued that the Tamil Nadu could have mounted pressure on the Centre to exert similar pressure on the Sri Lankan Government to throw a political package that would ultimately find a solution to the crisis. “I wonder why the Tamil Nadu has failed to do this?” he queried.

According to Anandasangari this is where the suspicion has arisen. He charged that this went to prove the Tamil Nadu’s sympathy to the LTTE, and not to the Tamil people, who today are displaced.
He also said that the TN should have exerted equal pressure on the LTTE to let the people find their own way to safety.

“Why is the LTTE holding on to the people? The people are being used as human shields. Why is that the Tamil Nadu could not take up this issue, and mount pressure on the Centre for a speedy action?” he asked.

He also accused all the Tamil Nadu politicians who today are crying foul, for making ‘unnecessary statements’ without paying a single visit to the north east or even to Colombo.
“Have any of these politicians who are shedding tears visited Sri Lanka? Do they know the actual problems in the country? Do they know the actual killers in this country? Without knowing all this, they are just shouting,” he said.

UNP frowns

The main Opposition United National Party (UNP) has so far not taken any decision regarding the Indian pressure, but will meet tomorrow to discuss this issue.
However, UNP sources have questioned as to what happened to the deadline given for the war by the Government.

“If the Government had stuck to the deadline then the war would have been over by now. The Government promised to bring Pirabhakaran’s head. Where is the head now?,” the source queried.
The UNP’s stance is that the Government while fighting the LTTE, should ensure the safety of the civilians.

The party is opposed to the Government’s restriction on the Opposition politicians, the media and the aid workers to move into the Vanni.
“This is why we say there is no transparency in this war. We do not know what is happening. The Tamil Nadu is obviously concerned about the people because nobody knows the truth,” UNP sources pointed out.

The plight of civilians

Mere rhetoric will not suffice to meet the immediate needs of the innocent civilians who today, are undergoing immense hardship in the Vanni.
Nearly 200,000 are already displaced according to official figures. With the war escalating on the one hand, ensuring a smooth food supply to the Vanni is also becoming a difficult task for the Government.
However according to the respective Government Agents from Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu and Vavuniya, the Government has so far managed to send food to the civilians to ensure they are fed.

Last week 50 lorry loads of food stuff returned to the base in Vavuniya due to the ongoing war.
Majority of the people have taken refuge under vehicles and under the trees in the jungles.
In Dharmapuram alone over 180 people have been bitten by poisonous snakes. This includes a 13 year old girl who succumbed to a snake bite last week.

Dharmapuram is a small village in Kilinochchi infested by poisonous snakes. There used to be a lot of ant hills in Dharmapuram and snakes had taken residence in these ant hills. But when people began to cultivate land and started using chemical and fertilisers, the snakes disappeared.
However due to lack of cultivation during the past several years following the on going war, this village has again become the home for snakes, and the snake population has multiplied.
The people who are forced to take refuge in this village are thus bitten by snakes daily.

No solution to IDPs

It is no secret that in any military confrontation there is bound to be Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), and that until the confrontation is over there cannot be any solution to the IDPs.
This is why the civil society is calling on both the Government and the LTTE to find a solution to the conflict expeditiously.
In fact, the invitation extended to the LTTE by President Rajapaksa to lay down arms and come for peace talks, is a positive sign for ultimate peace in Sri Lanka.

1 comment:

where is justice? said...

Killed by sinhalese air force