Cho S. Ramaswamy, the redoubtable editor of the Tamil weekly Thuglak, and a former Rajya Sabha member, tells R. Bhagwan Singh that the hue and cry in Tamil Nadu in support of a US resolution on human rights against Sri Lanka is uncalled for
* Tamil parties here and across the world are demanding that India support the US resolution against Sri Lanka in the UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC). What do you think?
I doubt these people realise that the US resolution does not condemn Sri Lanka as such. The resolution says that recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Com-mission (LLRC) appointed by Colombo, which was something like the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, should be implemented. The US resolution also insists that there must be a settlement of the Tamil problem. I cannot understand what the champions of the Eelam cause see in it.
* They are demanding an international investigation into “war crimes” by Sri Lanka.
The US resolution does not speak of war crimes. It speaks of human rights violations. Even the rights activists in Sri Lanka have expressed disappointment with it. I don’t know whether they have read it, but there’s nothing in it to demand such vehement support here.
What happened when the UNHCR spoke about (alleged violations by) Israel? The US attacked it and said that this is becoming political. Why target Israel when there are violations all over the world? You are doing all this country-specific thing and that won’t do, the US had said. And that’s what India says. Perhaps, the US has come up with this resolution just to show that there are human rights violations elsewhere, too, in order to divert the world’s attention from Israel. Why should India be interested in it? Why should the Tamil champions be interested in it?
* What do you think should be done to bring to book the perpetrators of war crimes?
There was no war. Is there a war between the Naxallites and the Indian government? Is there a war between the Islamic militants and the Indian state?
There is no war; there is terrorism; there is internal insurgency. The government puts it down with a firm hand, with the use of the military if necessary. Was there a war in the Golden Temple when Bhindranwale was shot down? Would you call that war because the military was there?
* But there were thousands of civilians killed in this war, or whatever you call it, in Sri Lanka.
Because the civilians were used by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) as shields. Nobody speaks of that now. They can use civilians; they can use children as shields and as suicide bombers.
* Do you think Tamil nationalism is going overboard?
There is no doubt about that. It has been doing that persistently for many years. The insurgents need not follow any rules but the state should always be mindful of international law or rules of war etc. How is that possible? In that case no state can put down terrorism. It is as if we are asking the state not to act against terrorism.
* If we look back, this terrorism itself was the result of discrimination against the Tamils by the Sri Lankan state.
I entirely agree with you. But that alone does not justify what the LTTE did. They did something worse than what the Sri Lankan government did. They wiped out the entire Tamil leadership, Amirthalingam downwards. The Sri Lankan government did not do that. The LTTE massacred Muslims in mosques, alienating them totally. They eliminated other Tamil militant organisations, too. At one point, they clearly said that the Sinhalese and we (Sri Lankan Tamils) are brothers, and that India, an alien country, has no business in our affairs. The LTTE had made that statement. And we here have no sense of shame even after that.
* So, the LTTE was anti-India?
They were definitely anti-India, and that’s why they maligned the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) there and made that operation a total failure. Let me ask, are all the Tamils in Sri Lanka united? Are the Tamils in Colombo and the Tamils in the north united? Are the Tamils in the east and those in Jaffna united? The Tamil diaspora are also not united. Of course, the Sri Lankan government has been behaving unfairly towards the Tamils — their rights are being denied; they are not equal citizens there.
This must be addressed by Sri Lanka, but militancy is not the solution. Suppose the US or some other country sponsors a similar resolution tomorrow on Kashmir. Are we going to honour it? We will say that the UN has no right to do this. The LTTE was the most powerful and ruthless terrorist group. They even had submarines and warplanes, apart from rocket launchers. The LTTE killed thousands of Tamils and executed them, calling them betrayers. And they decimated the entire Tamil leadership so that there could be no other representation for the Tamils except them.