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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 79

A high level meet in Delhi on ‘Wanni catastrophe’, DMK calls a general strike, BJP for UN intervention

By M Rama Rao, India Editor, Asian Tribune

New Delhi, 23 April ( Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has convened a high level meeting here in Delhi to come to grips ‘catastrophic' situation’ as the International Red Cross likes to term the post-war scene in Wanni.

The meeting is taking place against the backdrop of announcement in Colombo that Sri Lanka President Rajapaksa is sending his brother Basil Rajapaksa as his special emissary to India to discuss the humanitarian situation and the DMK’s call for a general strike on Thursday to force Singh to ‘sympathize with the plight of Tamils’ in the island nation.

Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee, National Security Advisor M K Naryanan and Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon are meeting Manmohan Singh to evolve Delhi’s response to the crisis that has gripped Northern Sri Lanka with an estimated 82,000 people said to have crossed the battle lines to the safety zone.

As of now, no date has yet been set for the Basil mission but it is stated that his talks would focus on India’s role in relief and rehabilitation measures. This will be Basil’s second visit to Delhi in the past six –months.

Delhi finds itself on the horns of a dilemma as the Tamil issue broke out when India is in the midst of a crucial election. These elections have not thrown up a single major national issue to galvanize the people. There are a host of regional issues though.

Delhi Dilemma

Observers are clear that the Tamil issue could swing the electorate mood in Tamil Nadu.

PMK leader and former Federal Minister Ambumani Ramdoss, also thinks so. He said in Chennai that the crisis in Sri Lanka is looming large over Tamil Nadu. He has taken the Congress and the DMK to task for what he called not handling the issue fairly and properly. There is a virtual polarization amongst political parties in Tamil Nadu with DMK at the receiving end of the brickbats for not ‘championing’ the Tamil cause till it was very late.

Before leaving Kolkata for Delhi to attend the high level session called by Prime Minister, Pranab Mukherjee told a press conference on Wednesday that Sri Lanka authorities were responding to Indian appeal for rescuing the people caught in the conflict zone.

‘Over 58,600 civilians have come out of the conflict zone till this morning. So it is not true that the Sri Lankan authorities are not responding to our appeal’, he said and made it clear that India had ‘no sympathy’ for the terrorists in Sri Lanka but ‘every sympathy for the civilians’.

Mukherjee said, ‘We have no sympathy for the terrorists, "There are conflicting signals about the exact number of civilians who were still trapped in the conflict zone. He asked the Sri Lankan authorities to take the international community into confidence so that there was no violation of human rights or liberties.

On the demand for ceasefire of Tamil Nadu politicians, the Indian Minister said, ‘We did not use the term ceasefire; what we said was that there should be a pause to enable the civilians to go to safer zones’.

Pranab speak doesn’t conceal India’s worries over Colombo’s continuing precipitate military action, which, according to experts here are leading to further civilian casualties.

DMK Strike Call – Mixed Response

In Chennai, DMK chief Karunanidhi is squirming with unease. His immediate concern is the Tamil voter. His near term concern is Congress support to his minority government. Any how, on the eve of crucial Parliamentary election, he knows he cannot push his envelop too hard. So making a tight rope walk, he has gone to the town appearing as a friend of beleaguered Prabhakaran and in the same breath tried to arm twist Singh government to issuing an ultimatum to Colombo. The gamble paid no dividends as of now, and in fact exposed him to brickbats and bouncers from his political rivals, who see in his discomfiture a grand chance to strike it big in the electoral battle.

‘We welcome with gratitude the appeal made by the External Affairs Minister for ceasefire in Sri Lanka. If the appeal for ceasefire is not honoured and implemented by the Sri Lankan government, we request the Government of India to snap all diplomatic relations with Sri Lanka’, Tamilnadu chief minister told Prime Minister on Tuesday in a telegram. The telegram is yet to get a formal reply.

DMK’s call for Thursday strike has invited bouquets and brickbats in equal measure. AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa and her allies termed the move as a ‘farce’. The urgent need is ceasefire in Sri Lanka and not strikes in Tamilnadu, she said and pointed out that the Supreme Court has held strikes as illegal. The Left also viewed the strike call as a ‘farcical drama’. PMK founder Dr S Ramadoss described the strike as ‘a sudden waking up from slumber’. And Vaiko of MDMK said his party would not take part in the strike.

Karunanidhi has rejected the criticism as ill-founded. His allies, Congress, and the pro-Eelam Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) and Dravida Kazhagam have extended support to the strike call.

BJP Calls For UN Intervention

While Congress is squirming at the flipside of TN politics, the BJP, the contender for the Delhi throne, has demanded UN intervention in Sri Lanka.

‘I am sorry to say that those in office in New Delhi are utterly insensitive towards the Sri Lankan Tamils’ cause’, BJP’s prime ministerial candidate L K Advani said in Bangalore.
And added, ‘the bombings of hospitals are an issue which is of serious concern not only for Tamils in Tamil Nadu but for every single Indian. I urge all the citizens of the country to be associated with the cause of Sri Lankan Tamils’.

Congress party is taking pains to defend its position on Tamil issue. ‘Prabhakaran is a proclaimed offender and the LTTE is a terrorist outfit and it should be treated on par with such other organisations’ Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma, who is also a minister in the Foreign Office, told reporters in Bhubaneswar. India, he said, has taken the situation in Sri Lanka seriously and was watching it minutely. He went on to say, ‘We have a firm policy on the Sri Lanka issue. The people of Tamil origin should get their constitutional rights’.

The Congress headquarters also circulated a statement on Wednesday reiterating its firm belief that ‘the solution to the ethnic strife in Sri Lanka will only be possible through democratic and political means and not through military campaigns’. It called upon the Lankan government to ‘declare a ceasefire so that the humanitarian crisis can be resolved in a demonstrable way’. Also urged Colombo ‘ensure in every possible way, the safety and security of the Tamil-speaking population, especially in areas where its security forces are battling the LTTE’.

Left Workers

The Left parties, which have tied up with Jayalalithaa led front for the Lok Sabha elections, has its own worries. If Karunanidhi pursues his ‘tilt’ towards the Tigers, the Congress will find it difficult to remain in league with him and may gravitate towards the AIADMK. In early March itself, Jayalalithaa has invited the Congress to ditch DMK and close ranks with her party. The ‘open invitation’ was spurned but in the changing situation the old ‘post-card’ may be retrieved. In such a scenario, the Cong-AIADMK coming together will end the dreams of Prakash Karat to play the role of King Maker next month.

‘Karunanidhi’s statement on Prabhakaran will be used by the desperate Congress to change partners,’ a senior Left leader was quoted as saying in media dispatches from Chennai. ‘If results (of Lok Sabha) go on expected lines Jayalalithaa will demand that Congress withdraw support from the DMK government. She will want to go for an immediate assembly election and stage a comeback at the state level also’, he opined.

Congress has over 11% vote in Tamil Nadu and it makes sense for AIADMK supremo to have the Grand Old Party in her alliance.

The Left parties are known to keep their ears to the ground. This is clear from their campaign trend so far. They have not criticized Karunanidhi directly. Nor did they attack the DMK as such. This has prompted an analyst to remark that CPM and CPI are keeping their post-poll options open vis-à-vis DMK since their primary goal is keeping Congress out of power in Delhi.

-Asian Tribune -

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