Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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The Other Crisis

Times of India editorial, November 8, 2007

What is more significant for New Delhi is the impact of the killing in Tamil Nadu. There's been a visible outpouring of grief among some sections in the state for the slain LTTE leader...

Increasingly, both parties seem to have lost faith in a negotiated settlement to the ethnic problem. Colombo feels that Tigers sue for peace only to buy time. The latter thinks that Sinhalese have no intention to share power with Tamils.

Events in Pakistan have overshadowed recent developments in Sri Lanka and its impact in Tamil Nadu. Now it is time for New Delhi to wake up to the implications of the killing of S P Thamilchelvan, a top-ranking leader of LTTE. Thamilchelvan, the political face of LTTE, was killed in a targeted attack by the Sri Lankan air force in Kilinochchi last week. The killing has been explained as a retaliatory strike by Colombo to an air strike by LTTE bombers a few weeks ago. Thamilchelvan's death sets the clock back on the peace talks between the Rajapakse government and the Tigers, especially since he represented LTTE at the negotiations.

What is more significant for New Delhi is the impact of the killing in Tamil Nadu. There's been a visible outpouring of grief among some sections in the state for the slain LTTE leader. Chief Minister Karunanidhi wrote an elegy for Thamilchelvan, discounting the fact that LTTE is guilty of the murder of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. He explained the act as an expression of ethnic solidarity. Jayalalithaa, expectedly, has raised the impropriety of a public official openly eulogising the leader of a banned outfit. She called for the DMK government's dismissal and has threatened to move the Supreme Court on the issue. Congress, an ally of DMK, has soft-pedalled the issue from compulsions of coalition politics.

But that should not prevent the UPA government from taking a proactive stance on Sri Lanka. The government needs to work on both Colombo and the Tigers to revive the peace talks. Increasingly, both parties seem to have lost faith in a negotiated settlement to the ethnic problem. Colombo feels that Tigers sue for peace only to buy time. The latter thinks that Sinhalese have no intention to share power with Tamils. Meanwhile, a massive humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Tamil regions of the island that India can hardly ignore. The empathy for Tamils in and around Jaffna is visible in the eulogies for Thamilchelvan.

Colombo should be impressed upon by New Delhi that one couldn't win a people through war. The Rajapakse government should give serious thought to a federal division of state power irrespective of LTTE's stance. The current stand-off has pushed the Tamil population to become refugees in their own homes. The Centre should rope in DMK leaders like Karunanidhi to convince LTTE to search for a honourable settlement that assures Tamil rights without breaking up Sri Lanka. Militaristic nationalism is out of place in today's world. Dialogue is the way to resolve political disputes.