By Malinda Seneviratne –
On Monday, a group of pilgrims from Chilaw numbering 154 visiting the Poornimatha Church in Thanjavur were mobbed by an organized gang chanting anti-Sri Lanka slogan. They were forced to take refuge in the church. The incident prompted the Ministry of External Affairs to issue a Travel Advisory warning Sri Lankans not to visit Tamil Nadu until further notice.
It was not the first time and sadly it might not be the last that Sri Lankans have been harassed in that state. Tamil Nadu is THE anti-Sri Lankan Indian state, that much is established; ‘Anti-Sri Lankan’ in the sense that Sri Lankans from all communities have been treated shabbily at one time or another in that part of India. For example, for all the tears shed on behalf of ‘Sri Lankan Tamil brethren’, the Tamils (from leaders down to citizens) have treated Tamil fishermen as arch enemies. Tamil refugees have been good for anti-Sri Lankan rhetoricians, but have been treated with suspicion and derision the moment they’ve landed on Indian soil. The general public sentiment can be easily obtained if one watched how Immigration officers at the Chennai Airport deal with Sri Lankan Tamils seeking entry.
Prominent Tamil Nadu politicians have at one time or another supported the terrorists and/or the cause of Tamil Eelam. In the very least, they have been silent on LTTE atrocities, given legitimacy to outrageous claims by pro-LTTE about ‘atrocities’ committed by Sri Lankan security forces or been blind to the many positives that have accrued to Tamils in the North and East thanks to the defeat of terrorism. If this kind of thuggery is ‘Ok’ for the likes of Jayalalitha and Karunanidhi, then they cannot express umbrage over any kind of thuggery anywhere and must especially keep mum over tall stories manufactured by the Mothers of all Thuggery, the LTTE.
Tamil Nadu is not India, of course, but Delhi’s policy on Sri Lanka has always been influenced by the arithmetic of regional politics. Those in power and those seeking power have had to factor in the Tamil Nadu vote and the relevant numbers when issuing statements about Sri Lanka. Tamil Nadu was used by Indira Gandhi and later Rajiv Gandhi to train terrorists seeking to carve a separate state for Tamils in Sri Lanka. So, although Tamil Nadu is not India, India has been pussy-footing the issue for so long that it is prudent to err on the side of caution and presume that Tamil Nadu is indeed Delhi.
Delhi, moreover, for all the friendship proclamations has been too unfriendly over the years and especially at the UN Human Rights Commission sessions in March for Colombo to treat India with anything but utmost caution. For this reason, all agreements with Delhi as well as with Indian companies and others taking batting for India have to be meticulously reviewed. For example, the so-called ‘Mixed-development’ project associated with the ‘Transworks Tower’, where the land encompassing the Transworks House, a colonial building of high historical value that once housed the Public Works Department, is to be given to the Indian company, ‘Krrish Group’.
The Board of Investment (BOI) is reported to have signed an agreement for a $ 450 million (nearly Rs. 60 billion) project for a sprawling complex that will consist of four 80-storey towers at Transworks Square under a 99-year lease. One should not indulge in conspiracy theories, but again, given that Delhi has been patently unfriendly, it is (again) better to err on the side of caution. This has to be treated as a potential threat to national security, no less. Tamil Nadu and Delhi demand that we do.