Reiterating that a Tamil Eelam alone will offer a permanent solution for the Sri Lankan Tamils, who have been subjected to the “biggest ethnic cleansing of the century,” DMK leader and Tamil Eelam Supporters Organisation (TESO) president M. Karunanidhi on Monday said that the goal should be achieved only through non-violent methods.
Talking to reporters after the first meeting of the revived TESO, an organisation he founded in 1985, Mr. Karunanidhi said that even if the LTTE resurfaced to resume its struggle, the TESO would urge it to follow the path of non-violence. Asked if he had no faith in the armed struggle of the LTTE, Mr. Karunanidhi said, “Anyone committed to a cause and pursuing it with a pure heart and uncompromising fighting spirit will get our respect.”
Asked if LTTE leader Prabhakaran was still alive, the DMK leader said, “There is no death for warriors.”
Mr. Karunanidhi said that the armed struggle launched by militant groups in the wake of the suppression of Tamils failed owing to various reasons and led to the downfall of Tamils as a race.
“As we are keen on arresting the fall further, we want to change the method of struggle and suggest democratic ways accepted by countries across the world. We seek the support of the Indian government for this democratic struggle.” When his attention was drawn to the claim by CPI (M) leader T.K. Rangarajan, who was part of the Parliamentary team that recently toured Sri Lanka, that none of the Tamil leaders was interested in a separate Eelam, Mr. Karunanidhi said it was possible that the delegation would have met only people with such a viewpoint. “But there are a lot of them who have suffered and there is a need to get their opinion too.”
Asked if the DMK would leave the Congress-led UPA if the Centre refused to support the TESO’s demand, Mr. Karunanidhi said he was optimistic that the effort would succeed. “When many countries decided to support the resolution against Sri Lanka in the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), India took a belated decision. You should not forget the fact that the DMK’s efforts led to India supporting the resolution.” Earlier, a resolution adopted at the meeting demanded the United Nations intervene and hold a referendum among Tamils in Sri Lanka and the Tamil diaspora for the formation of a separate Eelam.
“The United Nations will soon take a stand and leave it to the Tamils to decide the question of referendum. Already, a referendum is being conducted among the diaspora. This will create the conditions for recognition of the basic concept of Tamil Eelam adopted at the Vaddukottai conference in 1977.”
One theory is that there was a backroom deal between the national government and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa that she would allow the Koodankulam nuclear power plant in her state to become operational if the government voted for the resolution.
Other theories are that the government was forced to keep the DMK in good humour due to coalition compulsions and that India gave in to US pressure to support the Washington-sponsored resolution on human rights violations in Sri Lanka.
It would be an error to conclude, however, that such tactical factors alone were responsible for the change in India’s position.
Indian opposition leader Sushma Swaraj in Colombo, Sri Lanka – 21 April 2012 Indian opposition leader Sushma Swaraj – taking the government line on Sri Lanka
What happens to Sri Lankan Tamils has an emotional and often a political echo in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
Even during the conflict with the LTTE, while India supported military action against the militant forces, it always cautioned Colombo about protecting the rights of the Tamil civilian population and ensuring their welfare.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa has assured India several times about his commitment to a constitutional amendment to devolve powers to the Tamils.
It was passed in 1987 as a result of the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord but its legality has been questioned in the Supreme Court.
So although President Rajapaksa talks of a devolution process that would be more than that promised earlier – he calls it “13th amendment PLUS”, there is uncertainty about what this would mean.
Many ministers in the Rajapaksa government are openly opposed to devolution and the president himself seems to be backtracking on it. A parliamentary select committee which will make suggestions on the Tamil issue is yet to be set up.
Colombo, however, has failed to read India’s disappointment with bilateral efforts. If it had started negotiations for devolution with the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), the UNHRC resolution imbroglio may not have taken place.
The all-party parliamentarians’ delegation emphasised these issues – urging that a dialogue be restarted in which the TNA is given an honourable role and that the parliamentary select committee on devolution be set up soon. Most importantly, it left Colombo in no doubt that the Indian political parties were united on this issue.
Having created an anti-West frenzy it may not be easy for the Rajapaksa government to back away from it.
It derives its social power from a peculiar psyche – of Sri Lanka (that is, the majority Sinhalas) being isolated by evil powers.
However, the Rajapaksa government could still move in the direction that Delhi is pushing it.
While maintaining its anti-West, anti-imperialist facade, it could compromise on implementing the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations. That would be the pragmatic way forward. Delhi after all is not seeking regime change in Colombo.
The visit by Indian parliamentarians shows that the Indian policy of engagement with Colombo will continue unabated. However, so will the pressure for a permanent reconciliation with the Sri Lankan Tamils.