Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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Tamils Distancing Themselves from India

by Sivathasan, The Island, Colombo, February 25, 2010

What caused this change of stance? Dissipation of trust. A whole picture fell into place with a series of events. A quarter century of space gave sufficient opportunity to the Tamil intelligentsia to read, discuss, interact, reflect and arrive at a clear consensus...

At the height of the war in 2008-2009, the defence advisor of India made a special visit to Sri Lanka with one message. Buy arms from India only. Never from China or Pakistan. It was tantamount to saying kill the Tamils only with Indian bullets.

In the Asian region, hardly any people have had such close cordiality as the Tamils of Sri Lanka with the people of Tamil Nadu and by extension with India. Ethnic affinity, linguistic homogeneity, cultural identity and physical proximity, all conduced to a remarkable harmony if not solidarity. Today all what remains is an edifice in ruins. Friends have turned foes. Admirers have become detractors. Where a bridge stood, there is now a chasm. Never the twain shall meet is the verdict of the percipient. Forget the North, turn East to China is the voice of those who dare.

Intellectual nourishment of the Tamils when they are young, commences with Tamil literature. Poets of high intellect spanning two millennia nurtured us. Judged by any standard, Thiruvalluvar of the first century and Bharathy of the twentieth were of world calibre. In between them were poets and scholars of great renown. The independence movement in India brought forth a galaxy that dazzled us with their brilliance. Gandhi and Nehru, Patel and Bose, Tagore and Aurobindo were scholars and leaders who commanded our admiration. We coveted their aura and lived in a world of make belief.

From such an India steeped in idealism, the Tamils of Sri Lanka looked for a perfect dispensation to the ethnic problem. Expectations were high, but what we got in 1987 was military invasion, though by invitation. The army of occupation certainly brought in negative benefits. Firstly, its brutality knocked the scales from our eyes. Destruction without restraint, death with unconcern and merciless assaults brought the people down from their ethereal heights. In the period October 1987 to march 1990, indignities of every description were visited on over 50 percent of the Tamil population in the North East of Sri Lanka. Tamils have vowed, never again to look back. India stands banished from their consciousness. The void is now clear for the most formidable power of the future-China-to enter. Benevolence will replace malevolence.

What caused this change of stance? Dissipation of trust. A whole picture fell into place with a series of events. A quarter century of space gave sufficient opportunity to the Tamil intelligentsia to read, discuss, interact, reflect and arrive at a clear consensus.

Facts were gathered and their veracity ascertained. Strands of discernment when woven together made the motivation of India clearly visible. The overtones became apparent and there was evidence. It is idle to talk of the permanent nature of interest, permanence of friendship or impermanence of enmity. The emerging reality is the distancing of Tamils from India.

At the height of the war in 2008-2009, the defence advisor of India made a special visit to Sri Lanka with one message. Buy arms from India only. Never from China or Pakistan. It was tantamount to saying kill the Tamils only with Indian bullets. Could a more grotesque demand have ever been made? What has been the drama from the eighties? When a leaf rustles in Sri Lanka, the sabre rattles in India. Pretence was the posture. Inaction was the actuality. Forcing concessions to Tamils was prated loud. With what results? Under what law? By what authority and through what means? One is wont to ask.

It turned out that an aggrieved minority clamouring for justice, had expected assistance from an imagined benefactor. That foreign government however unleashed its military might on an unsuspecting and battered people. "Know your friends, know your enemies." This simple truth cryptically presented by Mao Tse Tung, is fundamental in political or military strategy. It eluded the grasp of Tamils. The enemy having clearly calculated every step, feigned friendship. Tamils danced attendance upon the counterfeit from 1983. In 2009, they lamented that the vengeful had wreaked vengeance. What else could have happened?

The objective was clear. Destabilise the country — Sri Lanka. Identify the aggrieved ethnic entity—Tamils. From this premise events followed in logical sequence. Select impressionable youth, make them militants, train them and promote infiltration. Be conscious of the need to manipulate them at will. Therefore keep them on a tight leash. When the dominant group did not lend itself to manipulation, other groups were proliferated. When the latter were found to be Lilliputians, they were decreed to be on par with Gulliver and conferred equal stature at Thimpu. To resolve the Tamil problem, fake discussions were held to give the appearance of serious talks. Beneath the veneer was the red claw. An agreement was forged with the government of Sri Lanka for the ostensible purpose of enforcing peace. The Indian army however launched its mission only to eliminate militancy and to subdue the people whom militancy represented. True to purpose, it became a Frankenstein. The occupation army killed, pillaged and destroyed. Not even a semblance of remorse was shown either then or up to now. The people at large suffered the loss and shared the privation helplessly.

Germans compensated the Jews in full for the loss sustained by the latter during the Nazi regime. It was a gesture of admission of guilt and acceptance of responsibility for cruelty inflicted. The aggrieved were assisted to rebuild their lives, develop the nation and move on with a fund of goodwill. Humanity admired the culture and refinement of the Germans. To compensate the Tamils and others who suffered loss, should India await a request? Justice demands it. Honourable conduct will be appreciated. Those subjected to indignity and deprivations know well their cruel nature. Their goodwill will help forward movement.

There was a category of thought which outlined certain ideas. When a danger to Tamils is sensed, India will swoop in on Sri Lanka, upbraid her, pretend to rescue the Tamils, foist an instant solution and march back to Delhi after its mission is accomplished. Why should India intervene? So questions the cynic. The charlatan answers—the security of India is tied up with the stability of Sri Lanka. Therefore India is obliged to assuage her (India’s) concerns. Courting the Tamils composing 13 percent of the population is a surer bet than getting 75 percent Sinhalese to their side. The question arises: why? The Tamils of Sri Lanka have an umbilical chord relationship with the Tamils of Tamil Nadu. The latter will rather embrace immolation than see the Tamils suffer. New Delhi unable to withstand needling from Tamil Nadu will intervene in Sri Lanka, whatever the norms governing international relations. So runs the argument. The reasoning is weird logic at its convoluted best. How well has this worked and what has India contributed to the Tamils in the last quarter century, the cynic asks. The charlatan is dumbfounded, but stutters 13th Amendment.

India has a quasi-federal constitution. The most inappropriate model to frame a political arrangement for the Tamilian predicament in the Sri Lankan situation! Yet the commencing point of political deliberations from the Indian side was that no devolution for the Tamils would go beyond the devolutionary parameters of the Indian constitution. With this preconceived and unrealistic limitation, all discussions were skewed from the very beginning. The devolution exercise was thus poisoned at its very source. The result was a caricature of a settlement that was embodied in the 13th Amendment. It is basic that any political solution should be home grown. The contending parties have to thrash out issues and evolve strategies which can be worked out only over time. There can be no finality as if a perfect document with the last comma in place and the last ‘i’ dotted were an eternal guarantor of Tamil expectations. Experience and bitter knowledge mandate that Tamils have to disengage their sights from foreign capitals, particularly from Delhi and Chennai. What has been realized in 30 years? Only shameful failures and shameless betrayals! "Was the 60 year domestic experience any the better?" Tamils more particularly would ask with cogent logic. An alternative needs to be evolved. It is left to fresh initiatives.

Bickering needs to be drowned in a sea of economic activity and social growth. A good beginning has been made with the advent into Sri Lanka of the foremost Asian power, China. Aid for power plants will make a significant impact when all three phases are complete. Harbour development is great in itself, but the direction it points to is far greater. At Hambantota lies a potential Shenzhen and China can make it happen. Part of the Northern railway and the road network to be delivered in the North by China are sure to resonate well with the Tamils. They will whet the appetite of the people of North East for more aid, more projects, more growth and greater Chinese presence. Special Economic Zones concept is a vehicle to lift the NE from its present state. Closer rapport for a century at least will be good for the nation and better by the Tamils.

When a finger is pointed, a fool looks at the finger. The wise man looks at the direction. So goes a Chinese saying. ‘The God That Failed’ can no longer evoke homage or even respect. Temples of worship are wanted anew. The need for this change can be seen conspicuously.


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