Sunday, April 26, 2009

The crisis in Lanka is humanitarian ...

It is now a matter of time before the Sri Lankan army captures the few square kilometers of land that is still under the LTTE. And it is also likely that Mahinda Rajapakse emerges into a national hero in the Island nation. It is certain that the Tamil speaking people who are left behind in Colombo and in other towns where the Sinhalese constituted the majority are humiliated and made to live as second class citizens if they want to continue living there.

It is almost certain that Prabhakaran and his close associates evade capture by the Sri Lankan army. And it is also certain that a large number of Tamil speaking people who are still caught in the No Fire Zone are massacred. And no one will know for sure as to whether the death, of so many of them, was caused by the Sinhala army or the LTTE. The fact is that the media is consciously kept out of the battle zone in this war against the LTTE by the Sri Lankan army. All that the Lankan Government has allowed, until now, are reports by journalists who are prepared to gulp down anything and everything dished out by the army spokesman.

Unlike in the recent past when the marauding army allowed embedded journalists to visit the battle zone and beam visuals that merely chronicle the victory of the marauder (as it happened in the US invasion of Iraq), the present round of anti-LTTE operations by the Lanka armed forces that began sometimes in September 2008, has taken place without anyone from the media, not even the embedded journalist, being allowed anywhere near the battle zone.

Leave alone journalists, the fact is that the Sri Lankan Government has refused permission even to relief workers and para-medics from the international organisations to reach out to the people in the area that were under the LTTE for almost a couple of decades now. The army, we now know, managed to march into the LTTE controlled areas and push the Tigers into a small enclave now only because it had used all the armour at its disposal and had the support of the bomber crafts of the Lankan Airforce. In other words, the victory was possible only because the army was not restrained by the Rajapakse dispensation against use of lethal bombs and heavy artillery during the onslaught.

And that certainly means that the Lankan government did not care to ensure the safety of the civilians. Only the hardcore loyalist of Rajapakse or a die hard Sinhala chauvinist will believe that the Lankan army had abided by the conventions that guide the conduct of a battle and the core principle of all such conventions that the civilians are not attacked.

The LTTE too, having realised the futility of trying to hold out against the heavily armed forces of the Sri Lankan state and the fact that the army was assisted (by way of military hardware and even men) by the Governments of China, Pakistan and India, simply retreated. And while doing so, the LTTE also took the Tamil speaking civilians with them. This was how that such a huge number of unarmed Tamil speaking people ended up in Pudukudiyiruppu. Anyone who knows the LTTE well will agree that these people were reduced by Prabhakaran and his soldiers into a human shield.

The important point is that there were at least one lakh and fifty thousand people living in difficult conditions and acting as the human shield for the LTTE. The Lankan authorities were keen on insisting that there were only 70,000 people. That way they Rajapakse Government could have got away with the massacre of at least half the civilian population that was trapped in the war zone. And those who managed to escape from there were to be taken and held in camps that the army had set up; there was no guarantee that those who ended up in such camps were not going to be bumped off on grounds that they were LTTE fugitives.

This indeed explains the grave and intense humanitarian crisis that the hapless Tamil speaking people holed up in the No Fire Zone are faced with. And it is also important to note here that the Tamils who are now in the middle of this crisis and would end up in the relief camps (if they survive and are not executed by the army in the camps) are those who were forced out of their homes and their land in the past six months. Their homes and their land will son turn into abodes for the Sinhalese. The Rajapakse Government cannot be stopped from colonizing the Tamil towns with Sinhalese people once the LTTE is vanquished. There is no possibility of a resistance to that at least for a few years from now. It is stupid to expect such persons as Duglas Devananda and Karuna (who had deserted the Tigers at different points of time) will be in a position to resist after having become part of the Sinhalese political establishment for some times now.

In other words, the final onslaught in this round of battle against the LTTE could mean that the Tamils in the Island nation will be reduced to sitting ducks for anyone n the Sinhalese establishment to shoot at. All this, however, is not to say that all resistance will die. The issue in Sri Lanka, after all, is one of a struggle for democratic and civil rights for the Tamils and against the discrimination that the Tamil speaking people had been suffering for several decades and more particularly from the time the Sinhala Only Act was passed in 1956. The rise of the armed groups and the resort to violence by the Tamil youth was in fact a fallout of the inability of the TULF leaders to convince the youth of the strength of a non-violent struggle against the Sinhalese regime.

The last straw, in that course, was the pogrom carried out by the Sinhalese mobs against the Tamils in Colombo, Jaffna and elsewhere and the fact that all that was allowed to take place with the collusion of the state. The massacre of Tamil youth in the jails and the streets in Colombo in 1983 was also a decisive moment when the leadership of the struggle for equal rights by the Tamil speaking people slipped out of the hands of the TULF and was vested in the hands of such groups as the LTTE, PLOTE, TELO and the EPRLF. That the LTTE went about eliminating the leaders of all other groups to emerge into what it is today is a story that is all too familiar.

As for the Indian Government, its role has been dubious in the earlier stages as much as it is now. The Government of India conducted training camps to these groups including the LTTE and also ended up fighting the LTTE when the IPKF was sent there. And as of now, the LTTE stands banned in India and Prabhakaran a proclaimed absconder. And in the past couple of years, when the Lankan Government began lining up military and strategic aid from China and Pakistan, the Government of India agreed to bend over its back to please the regime in Colombo. Just to make sure that its own strategic interests are not given up, India agreed to aid Lanka’s war against the LTTE with military hardware, signal equipment and also providing training to the Lankan soldiers. It is a fact that Lankan soldiers had flown into India, in hordes, for training.

And that is where one finds the visits by our own Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee and all the posturing by the Congress leaders, particularly those from Tamil Nadu, a bit too absurd. India, in fact, has not done anything to end the suffereings of the Tamil speaking people in the past few months and allowed the Lankan army to do all that it has done since September 2008 with impunity. It is sad, to say the least, that India has not cared to speak up for the cause of the Tamil speaking people even to the extent as such countries like England and the US has done.

Well. It is not that the LTTE is without blot. Prabhakaran is no angel. His acts in the past of eliminating all other leaders of the Tamil groups and also the fact that he did not tolerate democracy inside the LTTE are factors that have now led the LTTE into its present crisis. But then, these are not reasons to allow the Tamil speaking people in Sri Lanka to be reduced to refugees in their own land.


Blogger Srinivasan Ramani said... ..

On similar lines.

11:17 PM  
Anonymous Subbu said...

Our foreign policy has been a complete failure for ages now.

I guess when our country is not bothered about the endless stream of refugees that it creates internally by building large dams, creating SEZs and mines, it is not surprising that it is oblivious to the suffering of people in Sri Lanka.

The problem is one of abetting murder. We cannot do anything about genocides in Sudan but we can definitely do something in Sri Lanka, atleast by not abetting it.

1:10 AM  
Anonymous Karthik said...

Great article Sir. The farce of a fast held by MK exposes his commmitment to the cause. Hope the UPA recieves a drubbing in TN...

1:46 AM  

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