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Why India should not heed Tamil Nadu's rabble-rousers on Lanka

Last updated on: September 06, 2012 13:37 IST
India should reach out to Sri Lanka and not push it into the dragon's arms, says Ganesh Nadar

Sita, abducted by Ravana, shed tears in Lanka and that's why the country will never be at peace -- so goes the legend -- and a look at the island-nation's recent history seems to be confirm this belief.

So what is the real problem in Sri Lanka? It all started in the 1950s when the Sinhalese realised that English-speaking Tamils, though only 10 per cent of the population, held most of the coveted government jobs.

The Sinhala Only Act passed in 1956 replaced English as the official language of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) with Sinhala. As per the act only those who knew Sinhala were qualified for government jobs, leaving a majority of educated Tamils -- from Jaffna University -- jobless.  

Business was then dominated by Tamils from southern Tamil Nadu. The Sri Lankan Tamils, who were denied government jobs, turned their ire against their counterparts from India and drove them out. This exodus resulted in Tamils migrating to Mumbai and other cities. 

The resentment among Lankan Tamils was exploited by Velupillai Prabhakaran and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam came into being. With support from India's intelligence agency -- Research and Analysis Wing -- and the Tamil Nadu government, the LTTE became strong enough to take on the Lankan army. The Sri Lanka civil war began on July 23, 1983, with insurgency against the Lankan government by the LTTE that fought for the formation of an independent Tamil state called Elam in the north and east of the island. For over 25 years, this war continued till the Tamil Tigers were defeated in May 2009. 

But the fall of the LTTE in started post-1991. Their biggest folly was the assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. Outraged, India withdrew all its support to the outfit. 

In fact, the Indian government helped Sri Lanka by cutting off all seaward supply to the LTTE who then choked without supplies.

With the end of the civil war millions of refugees returned to Sri Lanka from India and all across the globe only to find that their homes and fields had been taken over by the Sinhalese. There were no records to prove their ownership before 1983.

The returning Tamils, refugees abroad, remained one in their homeland as well. And the simmering discontent continues. The Lankan government, on a high after defeating Prabhakaran, did little to make peace with the Tamils.

Today, the Lankan Tamils are a disgruntled lot and reports say that they are leaving no stone unturned to revive the LTTE. Today, there are more than one lakh refugees in a total of 104 camps across Tamil Nadu. They are given a monthly cash dole as well as subsidised food. 

Recently, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitaa ordered release of Rs 4.33 crore for improving the drinking water facility in the camps. Another Rs 20.66 crore would be spent for repairing houses, laying roads, construction of toilets, community halls, libraries, ration shops, kitchens and streetlights.

The bleak picture painted by refugees who returned to Lanka has given no hope to those in India. The government should give citizenship to the refugees living in camps in Tamil Nadu. Why are we spending crores on them when most are born here?

What about the problem of fishermen? In 1974, Indira Gandhi ceded Katchatheevu, an islet, to Sri Lanka as a goodwill gesture. This was incorrect and we should take Katchatheevu back. This will solve the problem of the fishermen in Rameswaram, who are often detained for entering Sri Lankan waters, but not those who are from Nagapattinam.

There has been a huge hue and cry about training Lanka army personnel in Chennai. But if India does not train them, China will. Then Sri Lanka will become to us what Cuba is to America if we don't deal with them gently.

India should reach out to Lanka in every possible way and not push it into the dragon's arms. The Tamils in Lanka have lots of problems, but it is their internal issue, not ours. We use this logic to not interfere in Tibet, but drop it for Lanka.

About least popular Tamil politicians and out-of-work film directors speaking up for Sri Lankan Tamils, the reason is simple. The LTTE has been destroyed only in Sri Lanka.

Its international wing is still active and is rich with funds. Earlier, the funds were used to buy weapons, diesel and food for its army. Today, the money is lying idle. It is given to politicians and film directors in Tamil Nadu to expound their cause.  These politicians cannot win a single seat in Tamil Nadu, and the directors last made a film in the last millenium.

The pro-Tamil speeches are their bread and butter, not the common man in Tamil Nadu. It is they who beat up the Lankan football team and pilgrims -- not the man on the street.

But Delhi should deal with Sri Lanka on its own terms and not according to the din rabble-rousers create. 

Katchatheevu has to be retrieved but not with a gun, but with plenty of aid, whereby Indian companies can work there.

India should set its own house in order before playing big brother in its neighbourhood. 

Like I said earlier, Sri Lankan Tamils will solve their own problems, they have a hero to emulate!

A Ganesh Nadar