By J.A. Kathiravan –
Tamil Eelam Beleaguered in the Matrix of New Delhi and Colombo: Notes on the regional geo-politics of an oppressed nation
There has been a vivid and enthusiastic endorsement of Modi’s premiership by Sinhala chauvinists, nationalists and the Sri Lankan State. Modi reciprocated such a hearty welcome by sending a ‘prestigious’ invite to genocidal Sri Lankan president Rajapakse for the inauguration ceremony in New Delhi. Afterwards the BJP legitimized the move by camouflaging it as a standard invite to all the heads of state of the SAARC. Nevertheless it is to be noted that such a move to invite neighboring heads of state at the inauguration ceremony is in fact extraordinary. In regards to Colombo the previous BJP government led by Vajpayee in 1998-99 did not invite the then Sri Lankan counterpart for the salient state ritual.
What is at the crux of the matter is that the President of Sri Lanka is the chief executive of a genocidal state which carried out the Mullivaaykaal genocide in 2009 in which tens of thousands of Eezham Tamils were deliberately and brutally massacred. However apathy towards genocide is nothing restricted to the BJP alone when considering that all the previous governments in New Delhi, mainly when led by Congress, courted successive governments in Colombo during their genocidal efforts against Eezham Tamils. In fact from 1987-1990 the Indian establishment was directly involved in brutal attempts to annihilate the Eezham National liberation struggle through the occupation of the Tamil homeland by the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF). This was the consequence of the bilateral deal signed between Colombo and New Delhi known as the Indo-Lanka accord in order to impose the feeble 13th Amendment to settle the national question on the island.
There are strong links between the establishment in New Delhi and the one in place in Colombo; beside the military ties there is heavy economic interaction between the two states and an estimated 100 Indian companies are currently entrenching themselves on the island and the occupied homeland of the Eezham Tamils (1) . Moreover India is also the largest trade partner of Sri Lanka, and the island constitutes the locus for an estimated 50 % of the overall Indian investment within the SAARC. In a similar vein there are strong military ties between the Indian armed forces and its Sri Lankan counterpart as exemplified by their joint ventures at the Palali air base and the Kaangkesanthu’rai (KKS) harbor, both located in the homeland of the Eezham Tamils.
Additionally the New Delhi establishment and its state apparatuses, like the Sri Lankan state, exhibits genocidal characteristics through its past and present indulgence in multiple counterinsurgency operations against national liberation movements and people struggles. It is based on the strength of military linkages, economic and other bilateral ties, common brahmanical facets in their respective Aryan centered state ideologies as well as commonalities in terms of the inherent structural violence perpetuated against other nations that both the Indian and the Sri Lankan state might be inclined to enjoy friendly relations in the future.
It is in this light that the dominant criticism against Modi is in essence limited in terms of critical analysis. While these discourses are rightfully criticizing Modi for being a Hindu chauvinist, they fail to identify the Indian state and its chief patron the Congress party as holding fascist, anti-people, neo-liberal and atrocious qualities. In these discourses the Congress and New Delhi is absolved from the criticism placed towards Modi, thereby the idea of the secular, plural and multicultural Indian state is reproduced in line with Congress ideology. What history has proven is that the Congress state has covertly perpetuated many of the fascist, anti-people and chauvinist policies being criticized, but have seemingly successfully camouflaged it under liberal democratic and secular rhetoric whereas the BJP regime informed by Hindutva will overtly exhibit such qualities of the Indian state. While Narendra Modi’s involvement in his capacity as chief minister of Gujarat in the brutal anti-Muslim pogrom in 2002 in which over 1000 Muslims were butchered has been rightfully scrutinised, the discourse tends to suffer a structural limitation as it is restricted in its critique of the Indian state. Neither does it extend the critical analytical logic to the Congress governments nor does it account for the various violent counter insurgencies and other anti people processes executed during their custodianship of the Indian state. Through this limited critique the Indian state is mystified while such qualities of the Indian statecraft is mechanically confined solely to the rightist section of ruling classes as embodied by the BJP. As a consequence the Congress and the Indian state are mystified from the 1984 genocidal massacres of Sikhs in North India in which over 5000 Sikhs were murdered or the 3- year IPKF occupation of Tamil Eelam in which an estimated 15000 Eezham Tamils lost their lives.
New Delhi and Tamil Eelam :
While Modi and Rajapaksa were showing signs of friendship and courtesy, some sections of the Eezham Tamil diaspora openly opted for Modi in hope of altering the current domination of the Indian bureaucracy in determining the relationship with Colombo.
As an oppressed nation facing structural genocide with profound threats to its national existence and foundations, it is understandable that the Eezham Tamils have to explore the geo-political venues in the region to find adequate means to gain leverage in arresting the processes unleashed against them. This means a form of lobby based diplomatic engagement with the regional establishments in order to discover or stimulate friction between them and the primary enemy of the Eezham Tamil nation, the Sri Lankan state, in a bid to isolate the latter. While this is a diplomatic act to be executed with skill and acumen in terms of negotiation and maneuvering, the logic utilized in such endeavors is never to be espoused as the core of the struggle nor is it to be implied that one should strive to legitimize the modus operandi of the concerned establishments.
It is also imperative to resist any attempt to insert a cognition of servitude to the establishments among the people as to be the guiding raison d’être in the national political ideology or strategy. Consequently those pursuing the lobby with New Delhi have no mandate to propagate compromise among the people in a bid to advance the rationale of the establishment. Doing so implies a paradox as the diplomats of liberation are promoting imperialist logic among the oppressed instead of the reverse. In this regard rather than acting within their mandate, the lobbyists are delegitimizing the foundations of our nationhood as well as sidelining the rationale of our national liberation struggle and the basic principles of our national aspirations. The chief pillars of our basic political principles can roughly be said to be concerning: 1) Eezham Tamils constitute a Nation 2) The Eezham Nation traditional homeland is the North and East provinces 3) the Eezham Tamils are entitled to national rights and the right to self determination, 4) The Eezham Tamil nation have been subjected to a protracted structural genocide by the Sri Lankan state since the early 20th century reaching its zenith in the Mullivaaykaal in 2009.
With this said, the diplomatic engagement with New Delhi should also account dialectically for the unfolding dynamics in the relationship between the various establishments in the region as well as critically asses the Modi government’s friendly approach towards Colombo. In this light it is to be carefully noted that Subramaniam Swamy defended the invitation on the 22nd of May by stating that Tamil Nadu leaders cannot speak on the ‘Sri Lankan Tamil issue’. Likewise Subramaniam Swamy, renowned as a relentless opposer to the Eezham national struggle is a chief advisor to the newly formed BJP government. Moreover BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sithraman justified the invitation to Rajapaksa by saying “this is essentially an attempt to participate in a joyful celebration of democracy and the invitation should be seen in that context”.(2). If the presence of the head of a genocidal state and the total disregard of the historic T.N. state resolutions in which Rajapaksa is accused of genocide is “a joyful celebration of democracy”, then the Sri Lankan state is indeed the optimal candidate as it is the best practitioner in the region in propagating fascism, chauvinism, national oppression and genocide as popular democracy, patriotism and development.
If the New Delhi oriented lobby attempts to gloss over such ‘unfavorable’ dynamics and in its place emphasize an uncritical or unconditional engagement with New Delhi, there will be a need to course correct it or counter such elements. This is due to the fact that the Indian bureaucracy has long pursued a structural approach of patronage and cooperation with Sri Lanka and has at several venues actively attempted to hijack the Eezham Tamils political struggle. Such a similar logic is applicable regarding the diaspora lobby amongst the Western imperialist establishments.
The significance of Tamil Nadu
Although there might be a rift pertaining to Sri Lanka and Eezham Tamils between the Indian bureaucracy and the Modi government or any political leadership at the centre, the recent approach of the BJP government points to the contrary. In such a light it becomes imperative to look toward Tamil Nadu, in order to gain the geo-political leverage and the political power to pressurize New Delhi into taking a decisive stand against Sri Lanka and in implementing the demands put forth by the agitation on the streets and by the T.N. state resolutions in the recent years.
Engagement with the Tamil Nadu government is strategically speaking, more fruitful a move to pursue in terms of balancing geo-political leverage with adherence to the political principles of the national struggle. This is based on the political grip the historic pro-Tamil Eelam agitation holds on the T.N. state government and the electoral process in the state, as the advocacy for Eezham has become a wide public expectation and thus a centrifugal component in the competitive populist politics of T.N. Subsequently such processes and factors have transformed the T.N. state government into becoming the only judicial-political entity in the world which has advocated the righteous political demands pertaining to Eezham. These were passed through the T.N. state resolutions in 2011, 2012 and 2013. These resolutions held within them mainly the demand for 1) An international investigation into genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed against Eezham Tamils by Sri Lanka 2) To hold a referendum on Eezham among the Eezham Tamils in the Diaspora and the homeland 3) To initiate economic sanctions against Sri Lanka.
Lobby and engagement with state establishments is necessitated by the historical conditions in which our national liberation struggle is situated at the present. However parallelly what must remain a persistent process akin to our political ideology for national liberation, is our attempt to build solidarity and alliances with the liberation and political struggles of other oppressed peoples and nations in the region and the world. Even in these terms a naïve and unholy alliance with the Modi government is a negation and would breed contradictions. Moreover Modi’s adherence to neo-liberal policies, capital-centrism and a people unfriendly “development” paradigm is also a lurking liability for Eezham Tamils, as Colombo is already utilizing such processes to implement its structural genocide in the Tamil homeland targeting the Eezham Tamil Nation.
A dependence on either transnational solidarity or establishment wooing alone does not suffice in altering the geo political constellations to the avail of the Eezham Tamil nation in arresting genocide. The most identifiable alternative and in fact what should be the imperative strategy is obviously to pursue tighter integration with Tamil Nadu; with both the political forces at work in the state apparatuses as well the movements agitating in the streets. While lobby can be mobilized by sections in the diaspora, there is also a dire need to strengthen the work towards building a transnational solidarity among oppressed people. The former is to deal with the states dominating the geopolitics of the region, the latter is pursued to build a transnational movement of people struggles to change and restructure the imperialistic and comprador geopolitics of the region.