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Tamil Nadu plays politics with a dead issue

By A Ganesh Nadar
March 19, 2013 18:40 IST
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After keeping quiet when the Lankan army mowed down Tamil civilians four years ago, M Karunanidhi has no right to shed tears over the community's plight, and certainly not at a time when Tamil Nadu is plagued with problems of its own, says A Ganesh Nadar

In May 2009, the ethnic war in Lanka came to an end after 26 years. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam was ruthless to the end. It held local Tamils at gun point as a shield against the Sinhala army which simply mowed down anyone in sight. 

Twenty-six years of guerilla warfare that the LTTE had practised had damaged the psyche of the Sinhala army. They were no longer human beings. They slaughtered men, women and children in cold blood. 

They just bombed the entire civilian population being used as a shield into pulp. After that they gunned down the LTTE with equal gusto. Whether it was supremo V Prabhakaran’s son or anyone’s daughter was not a concern for them. Anyone speaking Tamil was dead meat. 

India and the world watched in horror but no one interfered. After all, unlike Kuwait or Iraq, maybe because there was no oil in Sri Lanka. 

At that time the chief minister of Tamil Nadu was Muthuvel Karunanidhi. He went onto a fast unto death between breakfast and lunch and then called it off as the Centre assured him that the war would stop with all the Tamils in that particular area dead. 

Now four years later it’s laughable that the very same Karunanidhi is going to pull out his ministers from the United Progressive Alliance government. He says he has five ministers in the Union Council. But no one seems to know who these ministers are and what they have done in the past four years. 

The only Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam minister everyone knows of is A Raja who presided over the biggest scam in Independent India and still protests that either he is innocent or that the prime minister and the finance minister were also in cahoots with him. 

The other DMK minister known to all is the Sun TV honcho Dayanidhi Maran who coaxed Maxis to invest in Sun TV. He is also famous for alllowing Sun TV to use 300-plus BSNL lines that were meant for his residence. 

Oh, and how can we forget MK Alagiri, the Madurai strongman and architect of the Thirumangalam formula of bribing every voter to win a by-election who once boasted that he could deliver Tamil Nadu for the sum of 1500 crores in cash! 

He was the chemicals and fertilisers minister. Till today no one knows what he did in that ministry except use free tickets to come to Tamil Nadu every week. He is well known as a challenger to his brother MK Stalin to take over the party if and when Karunanidhi actually lets them. 

Then there is the Rajya Sabha member Kanimozhi whose claim to fame is that she is Karunanidhi’s daughter. She is unique among MPs in that she is the first to allegedly accept payments via a bank transaction.

Now in all this, if you notice there is no talk of Sri Lanka and the Tamils. There is no talk about even the Tamils in Tamil Nadu. It is all about who will lead the DMK. 

Vaiko, Seeman, Bharatiraja and other lunatic fringe elements in Tami Nadu have always talked about  Elam from every available platform or stage. Chief Minister Jayalalithaa is the latest to jump on to the Sri Lankan issue where she declared that Lankan athletes will not be able to participate in Tamil Nadu, and their cadets cannot train at our army institutes. 

The students in Tamil Nadu have seized upon this issue as they know that they cannot get a better issue to delay the exams that are slated for next month. For four years after the Lankan Tamils were slaughtered none of these students even shed one tear. Now all of a sudden they are on strike. Have they ever thought about Tamil beggars on the streets, or Tamils dying of dengue, or Tamil fishermen being beaten up by the Lankan Navy? Why this sudden love for the Tamils who have been dead for four years now?

Kandasamy is a retired head master. “Yes, we sympathise with the Lankan Tamils, they are being treated badly. But the common man here doesn’t care. He has his own pressing problems. He is not bothered about Lankan Tamils to go on strike or anything like that.” 

Dharmaraj, a retired school administrator, says, “We have sympathy for them and nothing else. There is no power in Tamil Nadu. We are having 16-hour power cuts. We are battling that, we don’t have time for Lankan Tamils and anyway they have been dead for four years now. How can anything we do help that or change that?”

Selvin is a travel agent and also a ward member of the Nazareth town panchayat, in Tuticorin district of Tamil Nadu. He says, “These politicians have no issue for the Lok Sabha elections. So they have seized this issue. The Tamils were killed four years back. Even now the Lankan Tamils have problems there. They will solve their own issues. If they could fight the army for 26 years you think they don’t know how to fight a civil government. Tamils are hardy and intelligent. They can and will fight their own battles.

“The best thing we can do is leave them alone. We are just antagonising the majority Sinhalas to hate the Tamils more. On their own they will come to an understanding, we are just fanning hatred and separatism. We don’t want the issue to be solved. 

“As long as there is no reconciliation among them our politicians can continue with their chest-thumping which actually means nothing. The common man knows that the politicians are playing games,” says a clearly unimpressed Selvin. “If the politicians think that the Lankan Tamils can win them the Lok Sabha elections, they are sadly mistaken.”

In my village the farmers are very sad. One of them, Alagesan, says, “You know, this is the first time in 62 years that the first crop of the season has failed. The price of rice has gone up beyond 2000 rupees for a 100 kilo bag. And we have no paddy to sell. All those dependent on river water have nothing to harvest. Only the well owners have managed to grow the first crop. 

“The level in the Papanasam dam is only 70 feet, it has to go above 100 feet and only then the second crop of the year will grow. If that happens it will be the first time since Independence that we have left our fields dry for an entire year. 

“What will we eat? What will we feed our children? What will we feed our cattle? There is no water and no power. Do you really think the Tamil problem in Lanka is an issue? You must be joking! Let me pray for rain and see what I can find to feed my cow this evening.”

Image: DMK chief M Karunanidhi

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A Ganesh Nadar