In Tamil Nadu, continuing spate of recent violent, rowdy protests targeting innocent Sri Lankan civilians visiting TN and India on purely private and religious tours, define how empty and extremist and therefore emotional and violent they can turn out to be, when picking on the Sri Lankan Tamil issues. The recent escalation of these violent anti people mob attacks since they last set upon a group of Sri Lankan pilgrims in Chennai in August 2011, is generally attributed to the two lager political entities, DMK and AIADMK trying to out do each other in their warped sloganising of the SL Tamil issue. Karunanidhi went about with TESO that wasn’t noticed by the Tamil political parties in SL, but for Jeyalalitha, it wasn’t right, if she did not out do him by sending off a SL schoolboy football team and punishing an employee of a stadium.
The two have their own very vested interests in parting and aligning with the SL Tamil conflict, depending on where they are in terms of State assembly power and elections. During the past decade or two, they have proved they can swap positions on the SL Tamil issue. After the conclusion of the war in SL, during which time Karunanidhi stood by Delhi and Jeyalalitha stayed mute, the Tamil lobby in TN fell into the hands of the smaller fry who campaigned against the war and thus took a foothold in the backyards of Tamil politics, there. Some thus turned out as colourful TN Tamil “heroes”, but have a very limited understanding of the Sri Lankan Tamil issue, now crying against “genocide” and demanding the Rajapaksas be hauled before Hague, ICC for “war crimes”. They have adopted as their rallying call, a separate “Thamil Eelam” for SL Tamils, not in support of those who survived the war and are still struggling to have a respected, decent life in their own land, but to be in vogue with the now splintered and fighting SL Tamil Diaspora.How does this narrow, incredibly out of step politics kicking up protests and mob violence in TN, help the Tamil people living in a war devastated, post war society ? Any solidarity organised by one, for any other fraternity in any part of the world, has one cardinal rule in mobilising people for support. That solidarity should not in any way push a wholly different agenda, on contradicting demands and slogans. It has to be solidarity for the political demands campaigned for by that very people, for whom solidarity is for. In this modern, democratic world, where politics is for further democratising of the society, its structures and institutes, all lobbying, protests and demonstrations should be intellectually disciplined from the beginning. It is this single and most vital political factor, the TN extremists from Nam Thamizhar Iyakkam, Marumalarchi DMK, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal, May 17 Movement and such like parties and groups keep raping, for their own petty interests and in competition between them.
Therefore, right now, it is necessary to glance through recent SL Tamil history. Tamil mainstream politics in SL from Ananda Sangaree to all affiliates of the TNA, has very clearly left behind the separatist demand for a “Thamil Eelam”, thanks to Prabhakaran and his LTTE. This needs to be stressed openly for any future record of both Sri Lankan politics and its modern Tamil political history. The massacre of Tamil people in the Vanni and in other parts of North and East in a very ruthlessly fought war, became possible only when Prabhakaran stubbornly decided to have Rajapaksa as the Executive President of Sri Lanka in November 2005, on the most racist Sinhala platform that refused to accept a “United” country, refused any form of power devolution and was fiercely rejecting the cease fire agreement signed by PM Wickramasinghe in February 2002. Prabhakaran was adamantly against Wickramasinghe, who stood for all what Rajapaksa opposed at the 2005 November presidential polls with all political circles and critics accepting that Tamils would almost en bloc vote Wickramasinghe. They expected some form of devolved power beyond the 13th Amendment, in finally leaving the armed conflict behind, as history.
These numbers therefore become not only interesting, but very vital too. Jaffna district in 2005 had a registered voter strength of 701,938 that was almost all Tamil, while Vanni had 250,386 with about 25 per cent Muslim and 08 per cent Sinhalese. The whole of Eastern province squared off with around one third for each of the three ethnicities. Postal voting for the 2005 November 17th presidential polls was fixed for 06th and 07th of November. The first attempt at testing the effectiveness of a Tamil boycott of the presidential polls was on 06th November, when the LTTE used a fake Tamil Trade Union Federation as proxy, calling for a boycott. The message was nevertheless pretty clear with local LTTE political cadres giving it the official brand needed. Voting at all postal voting centres in Jaffna district was much less than 10 per cent. Thereafter, during the next 09 days before the elections, the LTTE had their official call for a total boycott of the presidential elections, using the argument, the Tamil people will not be a participant in electing a President for the “Sinhala” country.
What followed was disastrous not only for the Tamil people, but for Sinhala and Muslim people too. Rajapaksa managed a very meagre majority of 180,786 votes over UNP’s Wickramasinghe and had only 28,632 votes more than the required 50 per cent. Rajapaksa’s victory thus needs to be seen in the backdrop of Prabhakaran’s boycott call that had only 7,868 votes polled in Jaffna district, out of over 07 lakhs. If the usual percentage of over 70 percent polling at presidential elections is a benchmark, then around 05 lakhs of voters should have voted in Jaffna district alone. Even after discounting the sizeable percentages of non polling in other Tamil constituencies, if Prabhakaran did not take that suicidal and politically dumb decision to boycott elections, Rajapaksa would have lost by at least 04 lakhs votes and there would never have been this brutal war, for TN extremists to shout “genocide”.
Therefore Prabhakaran and his LTTE can not be left out as innocent of all the tragedies the Tamil people now have to live with in post war Sri Lanka and have in such tragedy changed Tamil politics, all round. There is no more space for any separatist slogans and the TNA, on whom the responsibility of shaping Tamil politics in SL now lies, is treading on a very pragmatic platform that keeps devolution of power beyond the 13th Amendment as the only possible solution for Tamil people living in North-East provinces. They have also brought in other immediate issues that are tied to democratisation of North-East in particular, but would in effect democratise the whole Sri Lankan society. These issues range from heavy militarisation to illegal Tamil armed groups working with State forces, Tamil political detainee issues, land disputes and resettlement to demographic tinkering in Tamil areas. All issues the LLRCtoo had to concede as important and urgent.
Here lies the basic political contradiction between democratic SL Tamil politics and the narrow, wholly alienated slogans of TN extremists who wish to show they are in solidarity with SL Tamil aspirations. TN extremists are calling for a separate “Thamil Eelam” for Sri Lankan Tamils, a call no more in Tamil politics, in Sri Lanka. Worst is, they don’t ask for a Thamil Eelam for themselves in TN. “Separate State” politics was dropped by C.N. Annadurai himself in 1963, a pioneer campaigner next to Periyar Ramasamy. The question that thus arise now is, if Tamils in TN can enjoy their political identity and democratic rule within a power sharing system of governance in India, having dropped the demand for a separate State 50 years ago, then why demand one from TN, for Sri Lankan Tamils ?
There is good reason for such contradictions in the politics of these petty groups in TN. They lack a broad political outlook in their own national politics. Any political party or group that lacks a political overview of their own national politics, can not position any other struggle in its right perspective. These vociferous Tamil groups in TN have never been seen taking any position on the Jammu and Kashmir autonomy, while they demand an “Eelam” for the SL Tamils. They have not been heard demanding the repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), in support of their own ruthlessly suppressed and agitating people in J&K and in the N-E States. They have not been seen agitating against “fake encounters” and custodial killings taking place across India.
In short, they have not been defining their own democratic political programme in TN, before they ventured into solidarity campaigning for SL Tamils. Obviously, they don’t have any clear political understanding of the SL Tamil political perspective as it had evolved after Velupillai Prabhakaran committed “hara-kiri” by helping Rajapaksa ascend the presidency. Obviously too, they can not serve SL Tamil politics when they can not with intellect, understand their own reason(s) for political existence and agitations, other than their wild and roused emotions.