Tamils - a Trans State Nation..

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
-
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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India & the Struggle for Tamil Eelam

Indian Re-Thinking of the Sri Lankan Situation

Thomas Webber

25 November 2006

"What is, therefore, real in Sinhala thinking is the goal of establishing Sri Lanka as a Sinhala Buddhist nation....The danger for India and the US is not from the LTTE but from the JVP, who would fight them when the LTTE is defeated. Before the Tamil problem, Sri Lanka faced the Marxist JVP revolution in the early 1970ís. It was the notorius North Korean leader, Kim Il Sung who supported the JVP at that time. The Island Nation will revert back to such a war when the LTTE is defeated and Tamils are annihilated from the Island. With the Sri Lankan armed forces being openly encouraged to listen to the JVP leadership, it is likely that the armed forces will soon contain a majority of JVP sympathizers, if not turning into the JVP itself. It will be harder for both India and the US to fight those elements at that point."


Any proposed use of Trincomalee harbor would be problematic for the US under conditions of such revolt from the south. In addition, Pakistan, as it raised the Taliban, will likely raise an armed cadre using Muslims from Eastern Sri Lanka so that it can bargain and fleece more US dollars by pretending to help contain them. Being problematic to India from the southern end will be much enjoyed in Islamabad under such a scenario.

Thoughts are finally emerging out of India as to the real implications of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. It now appears that India is able to see how the present Sri Lankan government is manipulating the external systems to achieve its ethnic cleansing goals.

It is relevant for us first to briefly look at Sinhalese politics with reference to India since the beginning of the 20th Century. Since the days of Anagarika Dharmapala, Arya Sinhala Buddhist supremacy on the island has been claimed and has been successfully introduced as the irrevocable fundamental of all Sinhalese political ideology. The subjugation of Tamils by virtue of being Dravidians is also a given. They are alienated on this basis and also by virtue of being non-Buddhists. Thus, the anti-Indian sentiment coming out of the Sinhala heartland has two components Ė being non Buddhists and being Dravidians. The conviction that the island is only for the Sinhalese is so pervasive that the Sinhalese sailor who attacked Rajiv Ghandhi with his rifle butt during an honor guard when the then Indian Premier was in Colombo after a mission of peace was pardoned soon after.

Since the days of Anagarika, the Sinhalese have always courted the Indians whenever it suited their political exigency, but reverted back to the ways of alienating all foreign non-Buddhists when their immediate objectives have been met. What is, therefore, real in Sinhala thinking is the goal of establishing Sri Lanka as a Sinhala Buddhist nation. The thinking in Colombo is that north Indians are their own Aryan lot, different from the Dravidian Tamils. As long as Delhi treats Tamils with the same indifference, the relationship with India would be fine until the next test of self-interest comes along.

The anti-Indian stance of the Sinhalese emanates from the thinking that the Tamils belong in India and have no claims on the Island. The hatred developed against Tamils have been repeatedly pronounced by Sinhala leaders and by the Buddhist clergy. The political actions of the Sinhalese leaders have repeatedly indicated an anti-Indian stance in matters internal and external.

The Citizenship Act of 1949, which disenfranchised largely the Tamils from the tea /cocoa/ rubber plantation estates despite the fact that these Tamils accounted for 90% of the Nationís income. During the Indo-China war, which was a time of great crisis for India, the then Prime Minister, Mrs. Bandaranaike, imposed on India the condition of taking back the plantation sector Tamils from Sri Lanka to India. While Nehru successfully resisted such pressures on repatriating the Tamils from Sri Lanka, Sastri had to settle for a  7 to 4 ratio as the solution to the problem, virtually under the threat of Sri Lanka siding with China. The so-called Sirima - Sastri Pact enabled the repatriation side of the equation, but the granting of Sri Lankan citizenship for 4 Tamils who stayed back (for every 7 who were sent back) was never fulfilled during Sirima's regime. The same Sirimavo enabled Pakistani jets to make use of Sri Lankan airport / airspace during the Bangladesh war. "Indian Pariah" is the term used in Sinhalese parlance in private and Sinhalese governments will continue to ignore India for their political convenience again in the future.

Sri Lankan leaders are taking effective advantage of the latent ethnic hierarchical stratification in the Indian body politic and continue to scare the South Indians that a demand for separation by Tamils in Sri Lanka would spill over to India. The fact that Sri Lanka has never had a national integration campaign as in India, wherein the concept of being one from Kanyakumari to Kashmir has been reinforced is indicative of the fact that they do not believe in the multi-ethnic nature of the Island. Even in better times, Sri Lanka has never taken Tamils into the armed forces and the armed forces remain overwhelmingly Sinhalese.

The danger for India and the US is not from the LTTE but from the JVP, who would fight them when the LTTE is defeated. Before the Tamil problem, Sri Lanka faced the Marxist JVP revolution in the early 1970ís. It was the notorius North Korean leader, Kim Il Sung who supported the JVP at that time. The Island Nation will revert back to such a war when the LTTE is defeated and Tamils are annihilated from the Island. With the Sri Lankan armed forces being openly encouraged to listen to the JVP leadership, it is likely that the armed forces will soon contain a majority of JVP sympathizers, if not turning into the JVP itself. It will be harder for both India and the US to fight those elements at that point.

In the minds of the Sinhalese, India's apparent current support for their government is not real and is not enough. The transitory nature of the US's militaristic convenience is well also known to the shrewd politicians of Colombo. As long as they benefit financially on a personal basis through corruption, the Sri Lankan political and military leaders will milk any assisting system. After the containment of the Tamils, the US transactions with the Sinhalese government based on military support would eventually lead to a leftist revolt. The classical South American scenario would dominate and a 1970's-likeconflict will be the norm in Sri Lanka afterwards. In the next round, unlike what happened during the JVP uprising of the 1970ís, India will not be called to put down the revolt. The next turn may be that of Pakistan or China.

Any proposed use of Trincomalee harbor would be problematic for the US under conditions of such revolt from the south. In addition, Pakistan, as it raised the Taliban, will likely raise an armed cadre using Muslims from Eastern Sri Lanka so that it can bargain and fleece more US dollars by pretending to help contain them. Being problematic to India from the southern end will be much enjoyed in Islamabad under such a scenario.

It would be much easier if the external nations continue their efforts in bringing peace to the Island. The Sri Lankan governmentís human right abuses and the non-recognition of the rights of the Tamils should be a regional concern. It is imperative the externals should support what is right and also in their best interests. Solving the humanitarian, human rights and fundamental political problems in Sri Lanka will be the higher road for all concerned.

 

 

 

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