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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2371

For how long will India watch Tamil Nadu political support for banned LTTE?

By Shenali Waduge

What can we deduce when thirty-nine Tamil Nadu MPs in India resign over affairs taking place in another country? This is how the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) plans to ignite a dangerous kind of populism playing pan-Tamil politics across national borders. What is Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi really up to by flexing his political muscle at a time when general elections are just 6 months away? Many are likely to think that the support for separatism in another country rekindles Tamil Nadu’s own memories of separatism in the early 1960s. In any case the fact that the LTTE remains banned in India doesn’t warrant such open support from the very State that witnessed the death of its leader by the LTTE & should quickly open the eyes of India’s national security advisor since India’s foreign policy comes into question.

Of the 80million Tamils in the world, 62million live in India’s Tamil Nadu state which accounts for India’s 5th largest economy & is rated as the 2nd most industrialized state & is 3rd in foreign direct investment approvals. Sri Lanka may be important for its strategic location but the Tamil Nadu state is just as important & economically it is far ahead of Sri Lanka. If Tamil Nadu is more important to India than Sri Lanka we should know why.

We are well aware of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and their quest for a separate state through terrorism. Tamil Nadu incidentally has its own history of secessionism or separatism even before the colonial rulers departed from Indian shores. The LTTE too opted to use ethnicity, Tamil language & nationalism to cloak its quest for a separate state & surprisingly the Tamil Nadu state too through their “Tamil Nadu for Tamils” (10 December, 1939) used the same rhetoric. Both Tamil Nadu advocators and LTTE advocators however chose not to bind Tamil nationalism with religion. Is “Dravida Nadu” what the Tamil Nadu leaders like E.V. Ramaswamy Naiyakar and present DMK leaders espouse.

Yet, just like the present calls in Sri Lanka from some quarters for “something short or close to separatism” there were people like Dr. Ramadoss, Vaiko and P. Nedumaran who kept the notions of armed struggle very much alive. But why would Tamil Nadu wish to separate from a gigantic powerhouse like India? India’s constitution explicitly states that those vying for “freedom” from India are debarred from contesting elections. However, in the 1962 general election the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam the party of M. Karunanidhi won 51 state legislative seats on the “independence from India” ticket. Jawaharlal Nehru was quick to address the brewing danger by enacting a law in 1963 & banning parties & individuals demanding independence from India. It was a very wise decision but one that has done little to stop the sentiments of separation. It explicitly shows that the Tamil Nadu politicians have continued to flirt with the notion of “independence” if not in India by supporting the efforts in Sri Lanka. Whatever party has been in power in Tamil Nadu since the LTTE took to arms, the LTTE have received support & blessings of the Tamil Nadu leaders.

Just as India wishes for a United India, this is what Sri Lankan’s espouse for Sri Lanka – the only element that doesn’t belong into this equation is the LTTE. The Governments of the past have taken pains to see that the LTTE be involved in mainstream politics by asking that they enter governance minus arms – but they have not been able to disassociate themselves from killing politicians, murdering civilians & damaging property. Having finally decided that the LTTE does not seek to rehabilitate its ways & taking measures to eliminate its brute force that infringes peace, we cannot understand why some feel that the LTTE separatists should be let off the hook ….again & again!

We are aware that there are 80 million Tamils living in all the continents of the world – in countries like Malaysia, South Africa, Fiji, Singapore, Mauritius, & parts of the Caribbean islands. Whether Sri Lankan Tamils prefer to associate themselves with Indian Tamils or distinctly belong as part of Sri Lanka is a question that they seriously need to ask themselves without allowing politicians to tarnish their thought process. The necessity to isolate or engage with Tamil Nadu Tamil nationalism is needed in the light of the present Tamil Leaders especially those in the TNA thinking that their ailments are treated only by Tamil Nadu intervention which is tantamount to infringing on national interests. Yet, do Tamil Nadu leaders divulge their problems to Sri Lanka’s Tamil leaderships – most unlikely.

We are well aware the role played by the 800,000 Tamil Diaspora belonging to Sri Lanka – their investment has accounted for part of the USD300million profit that the LTTE enterprise makes to run their separatist campaign for 2.1million Tamils though less than 5% of this number will actually live in their espoused Eelam if it is ever established. Yet, with 62million Tamils in Tamil Nadu & the remainder concentrated around the globe we can imagine how & if the “free” Tamil Nadu will rise above India. Yet, Tamil Nadu is not without its demerits – caste system & corruption will be grave areas needing attention just as much as LTTE dries up its own people through their tax regime & distortions overseas. In the 30 years that the LTTE has ruled “its” people it has been the Sri Lankan Government that has fed, educated & taken care of the health of the Tamil people including the LTTE! None of the USD300million has been used to build buildings only bunkers. Even when the 2004 Tsunami occurred the relief items that came from overseas turned out not to be food & essentials but parts of Air Tiger Express & other weaponry including the gas canisters.

If the entire world is of the opinion that the actions of Karunanidhi & his following are tantamount to save a drowning LTTE, the DMK cannot be naïve to this fact, unless of course they are having some other plan up their sleeve. It has been convenient to use the concern for the Tamil people of Sri Lanka, whom they have never met in a country they have never stepped on, but the reality of this concern should have demanded that the LTTE release all civilians that are been forcefully kept amongst them – civilians whom the LTTE will not think twice to use as human shields when the armed forces advance. These are the very leaders who have not set a foot on Sri Lanka even when the IPKF were in Sri Lanka. If India had faulted in using the LTTE for its own gain, LTTE cared little about assassinating an Indian Leader. India has all the while wanted to be a friend of an “unstable Sri Lanka & a Sri Lankan Government that follows India’s instructions. It is true that India will never allow for separatism we can be sure of that & the LTTE would have picked this up thus the decision to turn the IPKF honeymoon into a nightmare.

India must be accountable for the suffering of its own soldiers – the 4th largest army in the world should not have been sent without proper briefing & ill-equipped without sound reasons. The truth is that the IPKF didn’t know why they were in Sri Lanka & for what. When the LTTE realized that India had no intention of helping to create Eelam the IPKF became the receiving end of LTTE attacks. The call to disarm the LTTE didn’t come until the IPKF became the target of attack by the LTTE & then innocent Tamil civilians became the victims of a very frustrated IPKF. But, had the Indian Government wanted to nullify the LTTE it could have done so easily from the moment they arrived in Sri Lanka. The answers to why India didn’t nullify the LTTE died with the assassination of Rajiv & the death of Dixit the oft quoted India’s Viceroy in Sri Lanka.

If the Sri Lankan Government was not concerned about its citizens why did it choose to liberate the East of LTTE & having liberated the East if the Government discarded democratic means of governance it could have chosen to apply military rule, yet within months elections were held & a Chief Minister who happens to be a former child soldier appointed. The IDPs have been settled except for those who are waiting until their areas are cleared of land mines. This same scenario has been applied to the only area that LTTE has in its control – if the East now belongs to the people of the area why do Tamil Nadu politicos think that the North will be any different? There is much to be done in the North – let us not forget that the Sinhalese & Muslims who were living for years in the North were ethnically cleansed from the areas at the height of LTTE dominion & these people will have to be given their right of stay. So we are all wondering what this sudden “concern” is all about – none of this concern was shown when the army was taking control over the Eastern Province? There were no resignations from Tamil Nadu politicos for the Eastern LTTE why only now?

The Tamil Nadu leaders have all pulled ropes to side with the LTTE – DMK, Vaiko, Jayalalitha are all no different. Vaiko now an ally of Jayalalitha was once put behind bars for more than a year when she ruled as Tamil Nadu Chief Minister – his charge “inciting Tamils against the Indian Government”. Her stance has also changed to the most present comment in which she declares “We recognize the rights of the Tamil people of Sri Lanka to demand for equality before law, equality in educational institutions and equality in employment with their Sinhala brethren. We recognize their struggle for self-determination and an autonomous Tamil homeland in a truly federal set-up.” Can Jayalalitha give examples of the inequality that she refers to?

In any case the Rajiv Gandhi ghost has arisen reminding the UPA Government especially that Tamil Nadu leaders must remember that Rajiv Gandhi was killed by the LTTE on Indian soil & in Tamil Nadu – the Jain Commission did not implicate Karunanidhi in the assassination attempt of Rajiv Gandhi due to lack of “conclusive evidence” though the reports states that Karunanidhi cancelled his meeting at the venue where Gandhi was blown up. Moreover, the report also states that posters were put up on May 20 asking DMK cadres to ignore the Sriperumbudur meeting. The Jain report also added the DMK had “close links” with the LTTE & names Subbu Lakshmi Jagdishan, former DMK Minister as having kept some LTTE members in her farmhouse & helping arrange the escape of Sivarasan. The Commission also stated that the assassination could not have been carried out without the “abetment & facilitation” provided by at least 11 supporters of the Dravid Kazkagam (DK) The Jain Commission did recommend further investigation & it would be very interesting to find out if any such investigation did take place & most of all what their findings were. Especially to the question why the LTTE would resort to assassinating a leader of another country knowing it would not help their “separatist” agenda whatsoever. But the emotions resulting from Rajiv’s death ensured Congress came into power – could Rajiv have been a sacrifice?

In a drawn-out conflict that has lasted 30 years for the first time Sri Lankans are seeing a real battle take place & not only India but the entire world & Tamil Nadu are watching. What happens in Sri Lanka has become a “problem at home” for India’s Tamil Nadu politicos. These sudden “concerns” for the plight of the Tamils however creates disparaging attacks on the Sri Lankan Government whenever “Tamil refugees” arrive in Tamil Nadu – even their welfare again must be taken care of by the Central Government & not the concerned Tamil Nadu politicos.

Liam Fox recently declared that the world has accepted LTTE’s claims on the strength of their propaganda – surely the world is not so naive to fall for warped up notions scotched by an armed group banned in 32 countries.

The Sri Lankan armed forces must be feted for the strategy in claiming areas that have been chosen supply routes for LTTE weapons & armory using Tamil Nadu state – much of LTTE’s domination will be cut to size as a result of the dent in the flow of equipment & for a force that has depended on sophisticated weaponry we can wonder how well & for how long they would resort to guerilla warfare too – it is natural that these youth will feel inclined to “reform” & become “normal” citizens instead of being confined to the jungles just to realize a never happening dream of their leader.

During the IPKF stint in the North of Sri Lanka the IPKF soldiers were seen asking the Tamils of the North why they wish to have a separate state when they have water, food, education & health all provided for by the Government – many of the Indian soldiers could not relate to why the LTTE wished to separate & those who know Sri Lanka & its people would really ask the same question. But in the web of politics it behoves us to forget the simple things in life & complicate things with affairs that eventually seek only to provide leadership hierarchy for politicians & their cronies. Today, India can satisfy itself that it benefited from economic partnerships in Sri Lanka – its flip side is that India will not want to destabilize Sri Lanka too much since it would inadvertently affect the investments of its own people. India’s problem has been in allowing Tamil Nadu politicos to use the ruse of LTTE – it had its benefits but now it has served its time & the LTTE should not be allowed to settle into a period that would unsettle a country for a further 30 years – its leader is at his last stages & so too should be its movement.

India’s PM says no military solution – thus implying peace talks, maybe he has forgotten how many peace talks have been held some even to enable these terrorists to see foreign climes. We have also had ceasefires & the most famous of that being in 2002 also with India’s indirect involvement ensured the LTTE had supplies of gas canisters that are presently being used against Government soldiers.

Riding the wave of Tamil nationalism served its merit for the LTTE & may continue in the hearts & minds of people who may not want an armed struggle but a separate state for Tamils nevertheless – whether Sri Lankan Tamils wish to have that State in Sri Lanka or annex it with Tamil Nadu is another matter but Karunanidhi seems to be fluttering those nationalist themes in Tamil Nadu & using the same sentiments that inculcated itself into the initial LTTE minds when nationalism was more important than commercialism, when a separate state was viewed as a birthright to ask for & failing which was to fight for but all the while with the goal of achieving it in the end….could separatism now be starting from Tamil Nadu..& will India silently wait & watch…………..the Indian Prime Minister did say there is “no military solution” though India has been militarily involved in Kashmir.

In summary, with such an astute intelligence agency that was very much part of a covert operation in Sri Lanka, the Indian Government must have been aware of the Tamil Nadu politicos stand on the LTTE & may even have given its nod of approval – whether it infringes India’s internal policy vis a vis the support for separatists’ with the ban on the LTTE still effective in India is something India will have to separately address but by allowing the Tamil Nadu politicos to raise their “Save LTTE” slogans on the pretext of “concerns for Tamil civilians” really displays India’s intent to ensure Sri Lanka’s instability remains permanent & beyond repair. This is India’s foreign policy – to have all its neighbors in a flux of instability that will ensure & safeguard its own domination of the region. But, does India really have to adopt such an antagonist strategy for the region?

If we cannot comprehend what international rights have been denied to the Tamils in Sri Lanka to warrant an armed struggle we can but wonder why Tamil Nadu would wish to separate from India being a state that accounts for the 5th largest economy in India even if domination by Hindis becomes a plausible excuse? While many of the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora are now claiming that the Sinhalese are good people & their calls of discrimination was to facilitate their refugee claims we also realize that there are some – not many but an influential number who holds the reigns & who commands how Tamils should think & act – these are the few who are nurturing the “nationalist” thought amongst Tamils & promoting the need for the Tamils of the world to have a separate state to call their own – even going so far as to create networks to channel arms illicitly for armed struggles. Sri Lanka was the first attempt & hopefully will be the last. That the Tamils do not have a separate state is no fault of the Sinhalese & no fault of any of the citizens that constitute the majority of the countries that these Tamils live in.

It is very unfortunate that while the majority of Tamils actually want to live in peace amongst the other communities there are a sordid few who want to challenge the status quo, imbibe unwarranted ‘aspirations”, entertain hostile forces that help prop their “cause” & completely upset the harmony that existed.

- Asian Tribune -

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