By Paul Newman –
Students Movement In Tamilnadu And India Against Sri Lanka – Not a movement of Riffraff’s or Fringe Groups
Last week my friend Pon.Chandran wrote an article in Colombo Telegraph titled, ‘Will the IC respond to the Just Voices of the Tamil Students’, in response an esteemed Sinhala friend wrote an article in CT covering a whole lot of issues connected with the Tamil struggle, in the beginning of the article he was referring to the students protests in Tamilnadu and called them as ‘riffraff’s’ and people belonging to ‘fringe groups’. It is sad that the few Sinhala ‘alternate thinker’ missed the point and called these continuing protests as those whipped by emotions. My friend also questions the IQ of the student community by questioning whether these youngsters know anything about the Tamil politics in Sri Lanka. It is here I felt as a person involved with the students movement I should respond.
It is a well known fact that these students have time and again reiterated that they do not want to support any political parties, if only my Sinhala friends had the luxury of watching the Tamil television channels they would have been proud of the responsible students community which articulates so well their demands.
These students are frustrated more with the Indian government than Mahinda Rajapakse. They know for sure the way the Indian government had helped the Sri Lankans defeat the LTTE and carry out the massacre at Mullivaikal. For that they need not know ‘Tamil politics of Sri Lanka’, for they never spoke or articulated about the Sri Lankan Tamil politics.
Talking about the origin of the ‘anti-Sri Lankan protests’, I have been involved along with a host of other human rights activists from Tamilnadu and Karnataka including the likes of Pon Chandran, Kurinji, Prof.Ramu Manivannan,Dr.Bernard D’Samy, Prof.Saraswathi, Ms.Pandima Devi, Dr.V.Suresh, Prof.Nagaragere Ramesh, Dr.Ambrose Pinto, Lawyer Manohar, Prof. Babiah, Prof.M.G.Krishnan (the present Vice Chancellor of Karnataka State Open University), Prof.Hargopal of National Law School to name a few in conscientizing the students community on the issue in which India is deeply involved .
The All India Catholic University Federation, a well known student’s movement with over 100 units in Tamilnadu has been in the forefront in bringing to light the injustice suffered by the voiceless civilians during the course of the civil war. The world renowned Jesuit institutions have played a key role in highlighting this issue. The Jesuits on their part had the ‘Jesuit Task Force on Sri Lanka’, in which I was a consultant and we even brought out a booklet titled, ‘Sri Lanka – A humanitarian Catasrophy’, which was circulated in the more than 40 colleges they run across India.
The protests started inside the Loyola college campus with eight students, the institution is one of the top three colleges in India, it is an apolitical one. Among its alumni it boasts of names like former Indian President R.Venkataraman, finance minister P.Chidambaram and West Bengal Governor M.K.Narayanan, journalist N.Ram, key men who formulated Sri Lankan foreign policy at different times in India. The sister colleges of Loyola including the fames St. Joseph’s College Trichy and St.Xavier’s Palaymkottai were the first ones to start the protests as these institutions inculcate the ‘option for justice’ among its students.
The AICUF is not the only students movement which asked its members to join, even All India students Organisations including the Left-wing students organisations like Students Federation of India (SFI) and All India Students Federation (AISF), demanded, among other things, an ‘economic embargo’ against Sri Lanka for its ‘genocide’ in the last days of ‘Eelam War-1V’ in 2009. (Read here)
The movement is very well planned, designed and executed. It may have started by a mere eight students but today it is one of the most well organized non-violent struggles seen in the history of post-independent India. The students are so ariculate and well informed that they drew their own plan of action and worked out their set of demands. The demands put forward by them to the Government of India are:
- We strongly condemn the US-draft resolution. Do not pass it at UNHRC
- What took place in Ilangkai [Sri Lanka] is not merely war crimes or violations of human rights, but planned genocide
- International investigation and referendum are the only solutions for the Tamils. Government of India should propose a resolution to bring in international investigation and to conduct a referendum on independent Tamil Eelam.
- A proposal should be made to remove the Deputy High Commission of the Sinhala chauvinistic State from the Tamil soil [Tamil Nadu]. India should severe all diplomatic relations with Ilangkai [Sri Lanka].
- Government of India, accepting the request of the Tamil Nadu State Government, should implement economic sanctions on Ilangkai [Sri Lanka].
- On behalf of the Tamil Nadu State Government, a foreign relations department should be created to assure the security of global Tamils.
- No Asian country should be a member in the [international] investigation committee.
- Killing Tamil Nadu fishermen should be stopped immediately.
- If the Government of India is not finding solution to the question of Eezham Tamils, we will not pay any taxes from Tamil Nadu. We, students, will actively engage in this campaign.
The ever anti-Tamil English media in India too for a change did a decent reporting on the students protest. They highlighted the student protests at the elite Indian Institute of Technology Madras (Chennai) and Bombay(Mumbai). A few illustrations are given below to demonstrate that these students’ protests were not in isolation, these were mass movements.
It is believed to be the largest ever students’ upsurge for the Tamil cause from seemingly apolitical campuses like IIT and Loyola. It is also touted as the second largest mass protest of students after anti-Hindi agitation (Read here)
With students of professional colleges and universities too joining what is turning out be a massive upsurge of students against alleged human rights abuses in Sri Lanka,the Tamil Nadu government on Monday moved quickly to shut down 525 engineering colleges affiliated to Anna University indefinitely (Read here )
Even as late as yesterday, 3 days after the passing of the resolution, IIT Madras students renewed their protests (Read here)
It was not just the students who came to the streets, the software enginers at Tidel park left their work to show solidarity with the students,lawyers, the auto drivers unions and lorry drivers unions called for a strike, Tamil Nadu Film Directors Association and the Tamil Nadu Film Producers Council, Koyambedu wholesale market traders selling fruits and vegetables shut down their business.
The career minded software engineers who are accused of having no social concern made a point that they too were with those demanding justice, on the 20th of march more than 4,000 of them formed a human chain at Tidel Park.(Read here )
One must not undermine the intelligence of the students in this age of technology, we must also note that there are 110 Sri Lankan Tamil refugee camps spread across the state of Tamilnadu. There are more than 100,000 Tamil refugees living here for more than two decades, is there anyone who has assured them that things are conducive for them to return? The Sri Lankan navy has killed nearly 550 Tamil fishermen which never went unnoticed by these students. They turned out to protest not in tens or hundreds as imagined by ‘expert analysts’ sitting in television studious of New Delhi or other parts of the world. They came in hundreds of thousands. It was not just in Tamilnadu, the protests were witnessed in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai as well as New Delhi.
This new generation of students did not mind sacrificing their classes though exams are around the corner. All that the student protesters are asking for is justice to their Tamil brethren in Sri Lanka, if seeking justice is wrong, yes they are wrong! If they are wrong, even my Sinhala friends who are content with a regime change are also wrong!
There is not a single incident of violence reported against this students protest. I salute these brave hearts for they are accomplishing what I could not accomplish during my student days.