I promised to write a follow-up to my previous post. But the situation in Srilanka got my goat, so I’m taking a detour this week.
If you are not hiding under a rock, you would be grimacing at the goings-on in Srilanka – and the attendant clown acts in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, with politicians and movie actors falling over each other in their zeal to support the LTTE. If all they wanted to do was to solve the humanitarian crisis in Srilanka, hats off to them. But, that’s not their goal. Most of them want a separate Eelam for Tamils.
Holy Canoli, I thought. If Pakistani actors staged a hunger strike for the cause of Kashmir – How would that make us feel? We may choose to carve out a piece of Kashmir & throw it out for the separatist dogs, but that’s our decision & nobody else’s. We may grin & bear mediation efforts from United Nations or from neutral countries like Norway. But, we would not tolerate random foreigners poking their ugly noses in our internal affairs.
So, what makes these politicos & film actors think they can dictate terms to the Democratic Socialist Republic of Srilanka, a sovereign nation? I hope that discerning people all over India are able to see beyond the race card.
The timing of these hunger strikes is what is galling to me. Srilanka is a nose-hair away from squashing LTTE, a terror organization. LTTE cadres are holed up like rats in the dense jungles of Wanni – where the tropical canopy limits visibility for air-raids by the Lankan Airforce. Many ethnic Tamils are held against their will in Kilinochi by the LTTE, so that they can act as a human shield when the Srilankan forces break the barriers. LTTE, the protectors of Tamils? They don’t give a rat’s ass to Tamils. All they want is a separate Eelam to rule.
LTTE = Face of Srilankan Tamils?
First of all – Who made LTTE the sole torch-bearers of Srilankan Tamils? Moderate parties like TULF (currently led by Ananda Sangaree) want an autonomous Tamil state, but they don’t believe in an armed struggle. TELO and EPRLF (parts of which have now merged with LTTE) are the other groups that focus on guerrilla warfare or militancy.
LTTE does not bear rivals kindly. Their snipers brutally assassinated TULF leader Appapillai Amirthalingam, who wanted a negotiated settlement instead of a civil war. The cold-blooded murder of respected academic, TULF leader & peacemaker Neelan Thiruchelvan is sadder still. He was working on a relief package with the then Srilankan President Ms Kumaratunga when he was assassinated by LTTE.
As for TELO & EPRLF – LTTE hit-men killed TELO leader Sri Sabarathinam in 1986, over a squabble. EPRLF leader Padmanabha and his deputies were killed in a gruesome manner, in broad daylight in Chennai by LTTE in 1990 – because his party contested in the Srilankan general elections for the North Eastern province. LTTE has admitted that it doesn’t believe in democracy. It never will. Anarchy & Oppression are their Gods.
LTTE & Friends
You are judged by the friends you keep. LTTE has close ties with ULFA, a much-feared and banned terror outfit in Assam, that targets Hindi-speaking Indians from Bihar. Mass graves have been discovered in old ULFA camp sites. They don’t mind killing children if that will get their voices “heard”. Such lovely people are friends with LTTE. Hell, LTTE organizes training camps for ULFA. What’s a little cooperation between friends?
The above news nugget is credited to the Director General of Police from Tripura (an Indian state). The DGP of Tripura – Not an Average Joe from the streets, who may have an ax to grind against LTTE’s “Tamil Cause”. It gets even better. LTTE & ULFA supply arms to Naxalites/Maoists, who have consolidated their presence in 22 Indian states.
Who are these Srilankan Tamils?
Human beings have lived in Srilanka for 34,000 years. Condensing the rich history of such an ancient land is fraught with the dangers of over-simplification, so I’ll tread cautiously. There are 2 kinds of Tamils in Sri Lanka – The Jaffna (Yazhpanam) Tamils & the Indian Tamils.
Tamils moved to Srilanka in one of the numerous, tiresome battles waged between the Cholas/Pandyas & Sinhalas. The very 1st recorded battle was in 205 BC between the Pandya (Chola in some sources) king Elara & the Sinhala king Dutta Gamanu, where he soundly whupped the Tamil king’s ass. In the course of the next 14 or 15 centuries, dame fortune sometimes favored the Tamil kings & sometimes the Sinhala Kings. From the 7th Century AD onwards, the Sinhalas got a dance partner – Persian Pallavas that ruled South India gleefully extended their support to Srilanka. Till the reign of Raja Raja Chola & his son Rajendra Chola in the 10th century AD, that is. Fearsome warriors, they kicked the butt of everybody in South East Asia, colonized any territory that they clapped their eyes on.
For the most part, the Tamils that moved to the Jaffna peninsula during these battles are the Srilankan Tamils.
Srilanka, like India, was under the British rule. In their inimitable style, the British usurped the lands of the peasants in Kandy and planted coffee, tea & rubber. To work these fields, they imported indentured laborers from South India. These laborers were amongst the poorest of the poor. Their working & living conditions in Kandy were squalid & unbearable. These are the Indian Tamils.
The uppity Srilankan Tamils showed their disdain for the “inferior” Indian Tamils openly. Historically, the 2 groups did not mix with each other. The Black July riots in 1983 changed everything, of course. Because the rioting Sinhala mobs didn’t care if someone was a Srilankan or an Indian Tamil.
Divisive Politics of G.G.Ponnambalam
Much of what we know about the early history of Srilanka is from the Pali chronicle “Mahavamsa”, created by the Buddhist monk Nagasena in the 5th century AD. It narrates the history of Lanka from the 6th century BC. This early part of the epic, which starts before the reign of King Ashoka, is difficult to substantiate. So, we can make an educated guess that at least a part of it is legend. Needless to say, Srilankans revere the “Mahavamsa” & are understandably proud of it.
In the 1930s, the leader of the Srilankan Tamils was G.G.Ponnambalam. The very 1st communal riots between Sinhalas & Tamils happened in Navalapitiya in 1939, thanks to his ceaseless efforts: He rejected his Srilankan identity & called himself a proud Dravidian. He then proceeded to attack the “Mahavamsa”. Imagine what Indians would do if some jackass heckled the “Ramayana” or the “Mahabharata”.
Srilanka became independent in 1948. As a fallout of the “Ceylon Citizenship Act” of 1948, the Indian Tamils were disenfranchised. Which means, all of them were stripped off their Srilankan citizenship & they had nowhere to go. Venerable Srilankan Tamil leaders like Chelvanayagam & Thondaman expressed their shock & fought to get this act repealed. So, the “Indian and Pakistani Residents Act” of 1949 came about as an addendum. Accordingly, about 40% of the Indian Tamils got their Srilankan citizenship back. The rest were repatriated to India – packed off to Jawaharlal Nehru, to be precise.
The charming G.G.Ponnambalam voted to pass this act. It is interesting to see the Srilankan Tamils do back-flips to find excuses for this egregious & embarrassing behavior. Truth be told, many of the Srilankan Tamils disliked the Indian Tamils, thought of them as “mobs” & did not want them to get voting rights. They were not sorry to see them go.
Why would I help the Srilankan Tamils, when they behaved abominably towards the Indian plantation workers? Oh, I see – now that they need India, they want us to forget the past.
What President Rajapakse cannot afford to do now is stop. In this last-ditch fight between the Lion (Srilanka, with its “Lion Flag”) & the Tiger (LTTE), I’m rooting for the Lion. That doesn’t mean I’m insensitive to the plight of the innocent civilians caught in the Wanni forest. Neither am I denying the atrocities committed by the Sinhala majority on the Tamil minority.
In our zeal to upbraid the Sinhalas, none of us should forget how rotten & human excrement-like LTTE is. After all, they killed Rajiv Gandhi, an Indian leader in Indian soil. Imagine what they must be doing to Srilanka. I’ll NEVER forgive LTTE & neither should you. I’m a Tamil. If opposing LTTE makes me a traitor to the Tamil cause, so be it. I simply will not condone terrorism. That will make me a traitor to the human cause.
Since the truth will help us take an informed stance, I’ll publish some more unvarnished nuggets in my next post.