By Preetika Rana –
Tamil nationalists attacked a bus late Tuesday carrying ethnic Sinhalese Sri Lankans who were visiting India, the latest sign of ethnic tensions that could imperil New Delhi’s relationship with Colombo.
About two hundred Sri Lankan tourists were on their way to an airport in India’s southern Tamil Nadu state late Tuesday when a mob led by the regional Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam party hurled stones at their buses and smashed several windows, say police authorities. There were no injuries and police escorted the tourists to the airport, from where they returned to Sri Lanka.
The incident comes amid sharp rhetoric in Tamil Nadu against the Sinhalese majority in Sri Lanka.
Tamil Nadu’s population is mainly ethnic Tamil, a largely Hindu religious group. The mainly Buddhist Sinhalese dominate Sri Lanka, a country that is separated from Tamil Nadu by the narrow Palk Strait.
Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese-dominated army fought a brutal 26-year war against the country’s Tamil minority that killed tens of thousands, largely Tamil civilians, before its conclusion in 2009. During that conflict, the Tamil Tiger insurgents often sheltered in Tamil Nadu.
Recent anti-Sinhalese developments in Tamil Nadu show the wounds of the war have not yet healed.
On Sunday, the state’s chief minister, Minister J. Jayalalithaa, who heads a large Tamil nationalist party, caused waves when she cancelled a local soccer tournament involving a visiting Sri Lankan team, claiming that such interactions “humiliated the people of Tamil Nadu.”
Last month, Ms. Jayalalithaa wrote Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to demand the immediate end of Indian military training for Sri Lankan officers.
Mr. Singh’s administration rebuffed that call. But rising anti-Sri Lankan sentiment in Tamil Nadu has caused a headache for the government.
Back in March, New Delhi voted in favor of a U.S.-sponsored resolution at the United Nations that demanded Sri Lanka investigate human rights abuses carried out by its forces at the end of the civil war.
India’s government, which had previously resisted censuring Sri Lanka on its rights record, was forced to back the U.N. resolution due to pressure from a Tamil Nadu-based party that is part of the national governing coalition.
Still, India, which is a large aid donor to Sri Lanka and South Asia’s regional power, does not want to see its relations slide further with Colombo.
On Tuesday, India’s foreign ministry attempted to rein in potential damage from the attacks on the Sri Lankan tourists.
“The government of India, in close consultation with the State governments concerned, has taken and will continue to take all measures to ensure the safety, security and well-being of Sri Lankan dignitaries and visitors to India, including to Tamil Nadu,” foreign ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said in a statement.
Sri Lankan politicians have called on India to stop the violence against its citizens. The country’s foreign ministry advised Sri Lankans visiting the Indian state to return home “in the interest of their security” and requested others to defer any “visits to Tamil Nadu until further notice.”
Sri Lanka-based political author M.R. Narayan Swamy slammed Ms. Jayalalithaa’s recent actions regarding the visiting soccer team.
“It is one thing for the chief minister to rant against India’s military relations with Sri Lanka. It is insane to tell ordinary Sri Lankans – whatever the ethnicity – that they are not welcome to Tamil Nadu,” Mr. Swamy noted in an IBN 7 opinion column Tuesday.
Indian commentators, too, have taken the chief minister to task for her stance.
A Tuesday editorial in The Hindu, a leading Indian newspaper, said she had “tarnished the reputation of India as an open and tolerant society,” adding that this could sour diplomatic ties between the neighboring countries
Some political analysts, though, argued in favor of limiting visits by Sri Lankans to Tamil Nadu.
“It’s just been three years since the civil war ended,” noted S. Chandrasekharan, the director of the South Asia Analysis Group, a New Delhi-based think-tank. “Wounds from the war are still fresh and that’s evident from recent cases of violence in the state,” he added.
“It’s better to limit interactions than fuel violent attacks and put at risk the lives of innocent Sri Lankans,” he opined.
Courtesy The Wall Street Journal
Navin Weeraratne / September 7, 2012
“Wounds from the war are still fresh and that’s evident from recent cases of violence in the state,”
If the wounds are still fresh, wouldn’t people be avoiding further violence? Another attempt by a wolf in sheepskin to justify division.
If the war is 3 years old, then what better way to move forward that to encourage integration and harmony? But what does these politicians and ‘think-tanks’ do? Try and start it up again! Theya are all clearly feeling the pinch following the end of the war!!
American Lanka Lover / September 7, 2012
So Tamil Nadu will ban non Tamil tourists from Sri Lanka from visiting for their own protection? Because the mobs are organized by a political party of Tamil extremists that Congress needs to retain power in Delhi?
I know the Chinese must be contained and india is the only means of doing that, but at what price to US integrity? We chose to ally ourselves with the government of India rather than the government of Sri Lanka which has suffered from Indian invasions and meddling for Millenia.
gamini / September 7, 2012
More American than Lanka Lover, from when has the US had Integrity? You must be dreaming for sure.
American Lanka Lover / September 8, 2012
Of course the US has been involved in many disgraceful episodes, most recently when we sponsored the UNHCR resolution back in March of this year. And the interminable delay in getting LTTE designated as a foreign terrorist organization, to offering bribes (green cards) to Tamils to fabricate accusations of war crimes against Gota and so on.
But we do more for the common good than any nation in the history of mankind, that is objective fact. So despite many errors, I will match pour record against any (except for the 8 years under Bush which was our national disgrace and for which we must atone).
D.B Adikari / September 7, 2012
How cenrtal Govt of India treat, people of Sri lankan, who had been touring Indian soil.The same Indian goes to UN Human Rights In Geneva and for War crime against Sri lankan Govt?Free Tarvel in not safe at all India’s land for Sri lankan.What Human Rights if you give powers to North by 13th Amedeant Tamils in North? It will be another Tamil Nadu Police-terrorst State withing State in Sri lanka.
We have have leran lessons Inadian attcackrs.
Senguttuvan / September 7, 2012
The writer misses the point many of the Lankan pilgrims to Velankani Church were Tamils, as confirmed by The Island’s Correspondent in
Delhi. That the team from the Daily Mirror in Sri Lanka deliberately kept this point out can be understood as that part of the tottering media depends on sensationalism for its circulation – and to hell with facts.
Jayalalitha has made many blunders in her political career. This visceral action of hers surely must be the most damaging. As Chief Minister of the important State of Tamilnadu (until recently Madras) it is her duty to make peace and not to stir up trouble with neighbours – where live a large number of Tamils, indigenous, if you like, and of recent Indian origin; facing blood-thirsty street criminal gangs of thugs who went into action in 1958, 1977, 1981 and 1983 – not for patriotic reasons but to kill, plunder and steal. They are still there – probably in larger numbers because of the crumbling and worsening economy. JJ knows she has messed up but it is not in her
dictatorial nature either to apologise or retract.
Despite all this the decent and peaceful people of Tamilnadu have no hatred towards the Sinhalese or Lankan Tamils. Their problem is with the Rajapakses whom they identify as having disbursed excessive punishment on a far smaller number of feuding Tamil militants, and, more particularly the terrible punishment meted out to civilian Tamil women, children, the sick and the elderly from the ground, sea and air – a charge the regime is finding increasingly difficult to extricate itself from.
NAK / September 10, 2012
Those who have a problem with the Rajpakses and the charge they are faced with are not entirely true and you know it. The Eastern population also underwent similar hardships as the nothern counterpart and yesterday a good part of them have voted with the government,many more would have if not for the racist politics played by the TNA and the SLMC.
Almost every one in Sri Lanka knows that there is no real hatred towards Sri Lankans in TN in general but for a few paid goons of the tiger rump. For the TN politicians this is a powerful bargaining chip or better a manupulating tool,when it comes to dealing with the center.
Senguttuvan / September 11, 2012
Reader NAK may please note while the UPFA polled 200,000 the 3 other
parties opposed to them saw the people in the area giving them over
400,000 votes in the EP. This can well be interpreted to suggest the Tamil-speaking people of the District have rejected the UPFA. A fortnight ago, I believe more for the record and future reference, Mr. R. Sampanthan on behalf of the TNA published a Statement outlining the possible serious violations, in the nature of the State’s recent record, that is likely from the Govt/UPFA including intimidation, false propaganda (e.g. TNA has withdrawn) vote rigging, use of vehicles and other State utilities etc., Few will believe TNA got 7,000 votes less than the UPFA. There was no way the Govt was going to allow the region or the world to claim TNA polled more than the Rajapakse Govt. This is further clear evidence while the so-called “war” is over the conspiracies and injustices against the Tamils and the Tamil-speaking people in their political future continue, arguably, in a more strident manner.