Monday, February 16, 2009

Will India Internationalize Sri Lakan Tamil Case

Will India Internationalize Sri Lakan Tamil Case
Syed Ali Mujtaba

The Forum for Welfare and Rights of Lankan Tamils is a new initiative taken up by the ruling DMK government in Tamil Nadu to ensure an honorable settlement of Tamil question in Sri Lanka.

The Forum for Welfare and Rights of Lankan Tamils comprises several parties, including the ruling DMK's main ally the Congress. This forum’s aim is to pressurize the Union government to internationalize the sufferings of the Tamils in Sri Lanka and rope in the international community to hammer out a negotiated settlement of the Tamil problem.

However, the moot question is; will the Indian government take up the case of Sri Lankan Tamils to the international forum, if it does so at the behest of its trusted ally the DMK, then what will be its stand on the issue of internationalizing the Kashmir issue.

Since last sixty years India is skirting the Kashmir case, using its diplomatic prowess to avoid any international arbitrator, even though its lap dog Pakistan has been barking at it on its face, the mother of terrorism in South Asia.

The other question is, will the DMK would continue its honeymoon with the UPA still holding on to its constituency that’s seething with anger over the Tamil question. The state has reported a few suicides and several protests have been reported from different place of Tamil Nadu over this issue. The situation is so grave the state government has order closure of colleges anticipating more protests and issue warning if needed protestors could be arrested under the National Security Act.

With the announcement of the general elections in April, all these developments do not auger well for the ruling DMK government and so it has decided to float the Forum for Welfare and Rights of Lankan Tamils to tell it cares for the Tamil cause. However the question remains how effective this mechanism would be to serve its purpose. Skeptics feel that it’s an evasive tactics meant to distract the surging emotions seething in the state and the DMK has to make a choice soon.

In the meantime a sub-committee has been formed to assist the Forum for Welfare and Rights of Lankan Tamils with state PWD Minister Durai Murugan its organizer. Union Minister for Communications A. Raja, Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi and Dravidar Kazhagam president K.Veeramani are secretaries. Other members include former judges; S. Mohan, P.R. Gokulakrishnan, A.K. Rajan, and Samidurai.

The sub-committee so far had held two meetings and chalked out a plan of action for ensuring the safety of Sri Lankan Tamils. It adopted a resolution calling upon the Centre to take speedy steps to implement the proposal made by Indian President Pratibha Patil calling for a negotiated political settlement to the Sri Lankan ethnic crisis.

The sub-committee also urged the Centre to move the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council to ensure immediate ceasefire in Sri Lanka, restore peace and stop the “genocide” of the Tamils.

The committee members have decided to meet the President, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee to explain the need to approach the United Nations under 11 (2) of the Charter of UN in this matter.

The committee has also prepared a memorandum asking India to appeal for deploying International Peace Keeping Forces under article 24 (1) to maintain peace and security and secure civil and political rights for the Tamils under article 41 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Besides, it wants the Central government to appeal to the SAARC nations to call upon the Sri Lankan government to give equal rights to the Tamils.

The committee is pondering whether to take up the issue legally and a drafting committee is formed to prepare the memorandum to be submitted to the international bodies.

The committee has decided to meet Ambassadors and High Commissioners of various countries either in New Delhi and Chennai and submit them a memorandum detailing “sufferings” of the Tamils.

Given the complexity of the Sri Lankan Tamil issue, one wonders internationalizing would serve India’s purpose or will it weaken its Kashmir case. In order to placate its electoral partner that too with just month to go for general election, India would like to eat the cake and have it too.

While the union government having a Hobson’s choice over this issue, the DMK has little to choose. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi has already expressed his unhappiness about the central government's actions in this matter. He says: "While the DMK is far from satisfied at the centre's approach, in my opinion (External Affairs Minister) Pranab Mukherjee is not happy at the turn of events. India should back a UN sponsored ceasefire in Sri Lanka," he said

The DMK president has also expressed his irritation at repeated criticism of the different political parties against the state government on this issue. "The continued politicization of the Sri Lankan Tamils' suffering through violence is an obvious sign of a conspiracy to dislodge the DMK government. Our forum will hold public meetings throughout the state to educate the masses in the matter and press for meaningful devolution of power and the honorable existence of Tamils in Sri Lanka," Karunanidhi said.

In the given crunch situation, it would not be a happy sailing for the DMK in the coming lok sabha polls. It can’t sail in the UPA boat if it wants to keep its constituency intact.

There are already many political parties crowding the political space in Tamil Nadu, and one wrong move would trip the DMK patriarch from its tight rope walk. This is an interesting situation in the Indian political circus. It needs to be watched how this story would play itself out.


Syed Ali Mujtaba is a working journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at

No comments: