Don't Betray the Sri Lankan Tamil



On the one hand, India intends to continue the ban on LTTE for a further two years. On the other India also says it is willing to mediate with the banned outfit and the Sri Lankan government, if both ask for it. India's doublespeak is only getting exposed in the international arena. Instead of losing credibility, it is best that India to keep its hands off the Sri Lankan Tamil issue. Its interference will again lead into another waterloo. A ceasefire can be worked out between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE, either through Norwegian diplomacy or through the UN. This alone would prevent the likely slaughter of thousands of Sri Lankan soldiers who are bottled up in Jaffna and also save the civilian population there from further strife.

To those who say that the LTTE's recapture of Jaffna will be a boost to the secessionist elements in Tamil Nadu I say this is utterly stupid. The LTTE had controlled Jaffna earlier too. Furthermore to enthuse 6 Crore Tamils in Tamil Nadu to separate from the Indian Union -- to raise this bogey is a covert operation by anti-Tamil forces, out to exploit the situation. And thereby forcing the government of India to act against the interests of the Tamils.

Any agreement by India at this juncture will again go the same way as it went in the earlier times. For the last 50 years, such agreements they have invariably gone against the interests of Tamils in Sri Lanka. Let the BJP government make an exception to this historical injustice to the Tamils in Sri Lanka.

After 30 years, the Sri Lankan government has chosen to recognise Israel now. And Israel's offer of military aid to Sri Lanka would naturally cause grave concern to those who are interested in an amicable settlement of the Sri Lankan Tamil issue. By arming Sri Lankan army and airforce to the teeth and by sharing intelligence through spy satellites, Israel is creating a situation in Jaffna where a million Tamils will be caught in crossfire. Instead of condemning this provocative act of Israel, India not only chooses to remain silent, but also feels happy to the fact that USA approves its action. USA has already applauded Sri Lanka for its recognition of Israel.

The year 1983 was a turning point in Sri Lankan history. That was the time when the Sinhalese indulged in genocidal attacks against the Tamils. The very same question arose for India then as it does now: should we intervene militarily in Sri Lanka? Since majority of the Tamils were interspersed among the Sinhalese population, the then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi took the decision not to send the Indian Army there, as the Tamils could be trapped by the Sinhalese chauvinists. But at the same time to defend themselves from the onslaught of Sri Lankan army, particularly women and children, it was decided by the government of India to train the Sri Lankan Tamil youth. And so began the training camps in India for the Sri Lankan Tamil militants.

Mrs. Gandhi never trusted the Sri Lankan government or its then President Jayawardane.In her view, the Sri Lankan government was utterly chauvinistic in its linguistic policy (Sinhala-only Act) and held extremist positions in religious affairs. To expose the Sri Lankan government to the world, in 1983 Mrs Gandhi took me to the United Nations (I was the Electricity Minister of Tamil Nadu then), to appraise the world leaders of the plight of the Sri Lankan Tamils.

Unfortunately after her assassination, Rajiv Gandhi, who took over as Prime Minister, unlike his mother trusted J.R.Jayawardane. He got rid of experienced senior advisors on Sri Lankan Tamils issue like G.Parthasarathy and present Maharashtra Governor P.C.Alexander. In their place the then external affairs secretary Romesh Bhandari was brought in. Rajiv Gandhi soon worked out the Indo-Sri Lankan accord in 1987. Though the accord contained some positive aspects, it was inherently defective. The problem was between Sinhalese and Tamils of Sri Lankan origin in Sri Lanka. The accord should have been between them, and not between India and Sri Lanka. India can be a guarantor at best to see the implementation of any such agreement. Unfortunately, the accord was more like a pre arranged marriage by parents without consulting the daughter, the eventual bride. Moreover there was a clause in it, putting the onus on India to disarm the LTTE, within two days of signing of the accord.

The accord was shown to the then Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MGR, almost as a fait accompli. He was asked to bring round the LTTE for this arrangement. Infact the LTTE raised at that time a pertinent question, as to why they should vouch for an agreement between India and Sri Lanka. On behalf of MGR I of MGR, I took the onerous responsibility of trying to convince the LTTE. I prevailed upon the LTTE that there are were aspects in this to be looked into. For the first time, the Government of Sri Lanka recognised Northern and Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka as Tamil homeland. Secondly in the past whenever Tamils entered into agreements with the Sri Lankan government, it always went back. But this accord allowed India to be a guarantor. Third, an interim government for the Tamil homeland was incorporated which gave legitimacy to LTTE and allow it to form a government. And furthermore it was only an interim arrangement .

When everything went as planned, the Sri Lankan government stabbed India by arresting LTTE cadres, who ultimately committed suicide under the custody of Sri Lankan army. The IPKF presence in Sri Lanka could not save their lives. Naturally LTTE was unwilling to go by the accord. Instead of pacifying or renegotiating with the LTTE, Rajiv ordered IPKF to disarm them. That was the fateful decision taken at Delhi in which I too participated. I was asked to leave the meeting because of my strong protests against the decision. Immediately, I met G.Parthasarathy at his residence in Delhi and appraised him of what happened in the meeting he said, "this boy (he was referring to Rajiv) is immature; Everything is gone; Nothing can be saved". His prophecy came true. The intention of the Indian government to "disarm LTTE within 24 hours" almost went on for two years, ending in a historical tragedy, including the death of Rajiv Gandhi.

Unknowingly India is again walking into the trap of the Sri Lankan government. Though the present BJP government claims that they are not following the path of IPKF in Sri Lanka, they are doing the same now, of course without arms and ammunitions. After all when Sri Lanka drove the LTTE from Jaffna, it didn't seek help from India. In fact it was claimed as a historical victory of the Sinhalese over the Tamils, a repeat of a victory obtained by an erstwhile Sinhalese King in 2nd Century. Till today, Sri Lanka has been claiming, the Tamils issue as its internal problem. When the LTTE wants to regain Jaffna, why should the Sri Lankan government make a hue and cry and internationalise the issue? Why should India respond to such a call from the Sri Lankan government? A response, that would only boost the morale of the Sinhalese and its army. The very fact that Indian Naval chief chose this time to visit Sri Lanka and stay for a week there can only cause misgivings among the Tamils all over the world. The government of India's claim that the trip was planned long back doesn't hold good. Could it not have been postponed to an appropriate time?

(Mr Ramachandran, 63, was a minister in the Tamil Nadu government for 17 years, first under DMK Chief M.Karunanidhi and latter with the AIADMK chief late MGR. From representing Sri Lankan Tamils in the United Nations on behalf of India in 1983, to convincing the LTTE to accept the Indo Sri Lankan accord in 1987, Ramachandran was a key player in Sri Lankan Tamils issue).


Courtesy: News Today
May 2000