By Jyoti Malhotra –
Two day after India voted against Sri Lanka at the Human Rights Council in Geneva last week, in favour of a US-sponsored resolution charging the Sri Lankan government with human rights violations, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wrote to Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa about how he had ordered his government to “introduce an element of balance in the language of the resolution.”
Now it turns out that it was none other than Congress president Sonia Gandhi who told the Prime Minister that India should vote against Sri Lanka in Geneva.
According to sources in the Congress party, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, Sonia seemed considerably disturbed by the gory photos of Tamil civilians, including LTTE leader Prabhakaran’s 12-year-old son, shown on Channel 4, a few days before the Sri Lanka vote. The photos were splashed all over the Tamil media and created quite a storm. Clearly, the two main Tamil parties, the AIADMK and the DMK, were forced to take notice of the people’s anger — and once that happened, the Congress party couldn’t have been left far behind.
What is interesting here is that only a few days before the vote in Geneva, on March 22, none other than Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee and National Security Adviser Shiv Shanker Menon had been telling Congress party members that India had never voted on a “country-specific” resolution — in this case, against Sri Lanka. Meaning, it would be nigh impossible for India to change its position this time as well.
Unimpressed, several Tamil MPs took their case to Sonia Gandhi. They showed her the photos of the dead Sri Lankan Tamils and told her, in no uncertain terms, that the people were extremely agitated that India was not seen to be taking any action against Rajapaksa’s government. All India was seen to be doing, they said, was bailing him out.
The Congress president heard out her partymen. It seems she was particularly chilled by the photo of Prabhakaran’s young son, shot in the chest, but looking like he was peacefully sleeping.
Sonia assured the Tamil Nadu MPs that she would take action. Soon enough, she had told the PM that India could not be seen to be voting in favour of the Rajapaksa government.
Considering her husband, former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, was killed on Prabhakaran’s orders in May 1991, what Sonia did was a particularly brave and sensitive thing to do. Then again, it was Sonia who ordered the commutation of the sentence of one of Rajiv’s assassins, Nalini, from death to life imprisonment.
The truth is that this time, the India-Sri Lanka relationship has turned on the death of a child. The irony is that he is Prabhakaran’s son.
*Jyoti Malhotra would like to wake to the sounds of classical music, but there are the kids to get ready for school. Over the whirlwind that comprises the following 24 hours, she finds time to dream about building the Republic of Saket, re-reading Haroun and the Sea of Stories and perchance, creating a cookbook that would chart Narayani Kutty Unnikrishnan’s journey from the Malabar uplands to Moscow. Courtesy The Times Of India.