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The Fallout of Tiger Vavuniya Attack

by T. Sabaratnam, The Bottom Line, September 17, 2008

Analysts have identified the following trends as the fall out: (a) concern about the war affected civilians has risen, (b) India is being increasingly accused of duplicity, and (c) the demand for a separate state had become more vocal.

"As I See It" column

In the concluding paragraph of my September 3 column, I stated that support for the LTTE would rise among the Tamils if (a) the plight of the displaced in Wanni worsen and (b) if it stages “a heroic feat.” The situation of the civilians in Wanni has worsened and the September 9 attack on Vavuniya had thrilled Tamils.

Analysts have identified the following trends as the fall out: (a) concern about the war affected civilians has risen, (b) India is being increasingly accused of duplicity, and (c) the demand for a separate state had become more vocal.

A strong wave of sympathy for Tamil civilians in Wanni is mounting among the Tamils worldwide. Among the Sri Lankan Tamils, dissatisfaction over the order for the withdrawal of the non-governmental organisations from Wanni is growing. The feeling among the Tamil public had been effectively voiced by TNA leader R. Sampanthan who asked: “Are not the Tamils in Wanni Sri Lankans?”

The Tamil media, though extremely cautious about their comments, have reflected this trend. For instance Virakesari highlighted editorially on Monday the pitiful plight of the refugees in Wanni. It said, “Due to the escalating war, about three lakhs of refugees have taken refuge in schools and public buildings. They are suffering without basic amenities.” Naturally, Sri Lankan Tamil media has to observe restraint.

In Tamil Nadu where such restraint is not needed, political leaders, especially the pro- LTTE propagandists, are whipping up Tamil sympathy. Vaiko, leader of the Marumalarchchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhalagam (MDMK), who is heading the agitators, has raised the question of providing food and other essential materials for the refugees in Wanni. An effort is being made to force India to intervene to protect the civilians in Wanni.

They have created a situation where Delhi has to react and it had done so by getting its Defence Minister A.K. Antony to tell journalists that India has expressed concern to the Sri Lankan authorities. Tamil Nadu politicians are not in a mood to listen to such assurances.

A feeling of anger against the Manmohan Singh government’s handling of the Sri Lankan situation is sweeping through Tamil Nadu since media reported injury to two Indian engineers, A.K. Tagoor and Chinthamani Raut of Bharath Techonology, during the September 9th, Tiger raid on Vavuniya airport. The two Indian technicians were maintaining the Indra-II Radar system installed by India.

Vaiko, in a hard hitting letter written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh went close to charging Delhi of duplicity. He avoided blaming Prime Minister Manmohan Singh directly, by blaming the bureaucrats, particularly the national security advisor, whom he charged has “clandestinely conspired with the Sri Lankan Government to supply air force radar and military hardware to Sri Lanka.” He charged that about 265 Indian technicians are serving in Sri Lanka.

The Indian Communist Party which is engaged in a running battle with the Indian Prime Minister over his nuclear agreement with United States went further. Its senior leader D.S.S. Mani has accused the Indian government of duplicity. He accused India of telling the world that it was for a political solution through talks and assisting Sri Lanka’s war effort.

Ela Ganesan, leader of the Tamil Nadu branch of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the main opposition party in Parliament, has also thrown his lot with the rising opposition to the Indian government. In a statement issued on Saturday, he accused Manmohan Singh’s government of not honouring its duty to find a just solution to Sri Lanka’s ethnic problem but encouraging a military solution.

Dr. S. Ramadoss, leader of the Pattali Makkal Kadchi, which, like Vaikoo’s MDMK, is a constituent of the central Cabinet, has come out strongly against India’s supply of military hardware and technicians to Sri Lanka’s action.

Tamil Nadu political parties were due to commence a protest campaign yesterday and they plan to continue till the central government withdraws the Indian technicians from Sri Lanka. All pro-LTTE activists - Vaiko, Ramadoss, Nedumaran and Thirumavalavan - were expected to lead yesterday’s protest march.

The pro-LTTE campaigners are accusing Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi of playing a double game. Nedumaran in a statement asked him: “You proclaimed in 1984 that Tamil Eelam is the only solution to the Sri Lankan Tamil problem. Now, why are you silent?” Ramadoss told journalists that Karunanidhi should break his silence on the Sri Lankan Tamil issue.

Karunanidhi, conscious of the difficult situation he faces, was trying to detract public attention through his welfare schemes - one kilo of rice for a rupee for ration book holders and the new scheme of subsidy for essential food items which he hopes to announce on October 2nd, Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday. The vast majority of the middle class and upper class Tamils who would not benefit from these schemes will turn away from him.

Making use of C.N. Annadurai’s 100th birth anniversary, the founder of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhalagam who agitated in his youth for a separate state for the Dravidian people, Vaiko had hinted guardedly at the possibility of the demand for a separate Tamil state in Tamil Nadu. He accused the Manmohan Singh government of “sowing the seeds of resentment in the minds of the Tamils which will result in reaping disastrous consequences for the unity and integrity of India.”

The cry, “Tamil Eelam, which is the only solution to the Sri Lankan problem,” is now heard more often in Tamil Nadu. The Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora too has shifted its stand from political solution to separation.