By Amit Ranjan –
Tamils and Muslims who are presently showing an all-out support to the state are answerable to people too; where were they when the SLA was on its mission to kill indiscriminately everyone inhabiting the LTTE zone?
Soldiers and terrorists have one thing in common: on the battlefield, both engage in indiscriminate killing. However, the battlefield connotes different meanings due to differences in profession, ideology, commitments and goals. The only difference lies in the legality of the killings. Soldiers have the sanction of the state and their acts are justified by the institutions and majority, or ‘constructed’ majority groups, while terrorist groups are considered as aliens, enemies and outsiders, hence their acts are termed as illegal, inhuman and anti-state. But in this process of unleashing violence and counter-violence, the real victims are the common innocent people, who are primarily concerned with their daily bread and butter instead of ideologies.
This is the narration of the protracted war between the Sri Lankan Army (SLA) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) that ended in the latter’s complete wipeout. The SLA during its final operation against the LTTE brutally targeted the innocent Tamils residing in LTTE-controlled zones, while during its heyday the LTTE killed innocent Sinhalas and other minorities, including the Tamils whom they found not adhering to their methods and ideology.
The JHU, the JVP and other Sinhala hardline political and non-political groups had supported the war and repeatedly shown disdain towards the minority Tamils. The Sinhala, to which the majority of Sri Lankans belong, are followers of Buddhism, which preaches non-violence. Therefore, how they are so violent in their mindset and thinking is beyond anyone’s imagination. One reason can be attributed to the indoctrination of a violent form of Sinhala nationalism among them instead of the cultural aspects of the religion to which they belong. This indoctrination has been in operation since Sri Lanka’s independence in 1948.That has resulted in the emergence of a spectre of violence between the Sinhala nationalists and the Tamils from the northern areas. The level of violence increased after the LTTE was formed in the early 1980s and started retaliating by targeting state establishments and areas where non-Tamils had a strong presence. To pacify the civil war, India intervened and sent the IPKF in; this was the first time India had sent a contingent to maintain peace outside its sovereign border. It also helped to bring the two conflicting parties to a peaceful solution of their problem by making them agree on the 13th amendment. This amendment was for the devolution of power. For its role in Sri Lanka, India faced criticisms from both sides, i.e. the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE. The former Prime Minister of India Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated during his election campaign in Tamil Nadu by an LTTE suicide bomber. Afterwards, India stopped its intervention in Sri Lanka and remained a mute spectator to the process of wiping out the LTTE by the SLA, ignoring the fact that even innocents were being targeted by them. After the end of the operation, India was vocal about the post-war process of reconciliation and re-construction activities.
The question is not whether one had supported the US-backed Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) resolution or one can justify the brutality of state action against its ethnic Tamil minority residing in the then LTTE-controlled northern provinces of Sri Lanka. It was nothing but state-backed genocide and ethnic cleansing .It is not that the pitch of the LTTE’s violence was low but as a modern, civilised state, the Sri Lankan government had the responsibility to protect and provide security to its citizens. Soldiers are trained to protect and not to kill the innocent. That is why they are trusted and being part of the state, if they start behaving like the terrorist groups too then what is the use of maintaining an army? There are even international conventions and resolutions on how the army has to behave during its operations against the enemy. And the people who were maimed and killed by the SLA were not enemies but rather citizens of Sri Lanka.
It is not that the states that brought a resolution against Sri Lanka and those who had supported it in the UNHRC meeting in Geneva have great human rights records but the states which opposed it due to political reasons are the real culprits for ignoring the voices and screams of innocent people. Some of them have the worst human rights record.
The well off and ‘accepted’ Tamils and Muslims who are presently showing an all-out support to the state are answerable to people too; where were they when the SLA was on its mission to kill indiscriminately everyone inhabiting the LTTE zone? The minister calling on the Lankans for boycotting US goods must know that his country is in the grip of rogue forces because of its own fault and not of others.
As the war and everything related to it has finished now, Sri Lanka has been found guilty of violating human rights of its minority ethnic citizens; so the question is what now? Presently, the state is engaged in demographic change of that area so that the survivors’ demands can be democratically rejected in any form of plural voting. The victims are still being victimised by the state institutions and living pathetic lives in their unhealthy shelters. The aid agencies and other global agencies rarely get a chance to visit those areas. Even when they manage to get permission, they are allowed to visit only limited areas, which are cosmetically dressed up for the visit so that the real face of state terrorism cannot be seen, even in the post-war time.
The only solution –if the world is serious about it — to improve the plight of the victims is to make the Sri Lankan government work for them. The global bodies must reach out to every nook and corner of the northern areas so that no one can remain untouched by aid. In addition, declaring Sri Lanka as a pariah state will harm the interests of the victims, because getting affected in its status due to the Tamils, the state institutions and Sinhala right-wing group will surely vent their ire on them. That will be a very problematic situation to witness.
The writer is a freelance columnist