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 

Home Whats New  Trans State Nation  One World Unfolding Consciousness Comments Search

Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > International Frame of  Struggle for Tamil Eelam  > India & the Struggle for Tamil Eelam > IPKF Departure & the Orissan Odyssey

India & the Struggle for Tamil Eelam

IPKF Departure & the Orissan Odyssey

Tamil International, 1 April 1990

An odyssey is a long adventurous journey, or a series of wanderings. How the EPRLF and ENDLF leaders and cadres and families left Trincomalee for Madras, then left for Visakhapatnam, and eventually ended up in Orissa after five days of sailing and waiting at sea, was itself an odyssey for a total of 1,335 men, women and children.

The drama began on March 8 at 6.30 a m when the first ship, Harsha Vardhana, carrying about 750 refugees lay anchored about three miles from Madras harbour. It was not allowed to berth for several hours. Later, it was allowed to berth in the east quay under tight security, but the passengers were not allowed to disembark.

Mr Premachandran of the EPRLF told The Hindu: "When they left Trincomalee, they were told they will disembark in Madras. I do not know what is going on. So they are going to proceed to some other destination. The Government of India has organised this ship. Something is going wrong in Tamil Nadu." He did not know whether it was the IPKF or the External Affairs Ministry which organised the refugees' sailing in the vessel.

Another ship, the Tippu Sultan, carrying a further contingent of about 600 was also on its way to Madras harbour. Both ships were under Navy charter, and both were refused clearance, apparently on the instructions of the Tamil Nadu Government.

The Hindu, quoting unknown "sources", said the decision to ferry the refugees from Trincomalee to Madras was taken at a meeting of the External Affairs Minister Mr I K Gujral and the North-Eastern Provincial Council Chief Minister Mr A Varadaraja Perumal in New Delhi in

January / February this year. Only on the basis of that decision that both Harsha Vardhana and Tippu Sultan were hired. "This is an official agreement. Most probably, the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister does not know about it. How is it possible that the two ships can come to India unless there is an agreement?", the sources asked.

Whichever the "sources" that told this to The Hindu, they were letting the cat out of the bag. If the decision was taken as early as January / February, it showed that the EPRLF leadership was aware of the ground realities, that such an eventuality was likely to occur. Why then go through the exercise of declaring the provincial council into a constituent assembly of Tamil Eelam unless it was meant to be a mockery and a farce? Or was it to create a situation whereby the Premadasa Government would have found it difficult to repeal the Sixth Amendment? It was obvious that the intention was mischievous.

Karunanidhi's Defence

Defending the action of the Tamil Nadu Government in asking the Centre to divert the refugees to some other state, Chief Minister Karunanidhi said there were reports that those who were coming by the ships belonged to militant groups. If these people started moving freely in Tamil Nadu, their opponents from other groups would track them down, leading to clashes. "This Government does not favour the movement of armed militants in the state", he said. At the same time genuine refugees would be received in Tamil Nadu and given all necessary facilities. So far, 3.000 refugees had come to the state and they had been lodged in Mandapam and Kottapattu camps. Mr Karunanidhi said the State Government had been surprised when it had been told only a day before the scheduled arrival of the two shiploads. Immediately, the Prime Minister and others at the Centre were apprised of the "undesirable results" of allowing militants to land in Madras, including deterioration of the law and order situation.

Andhra also refuses entry

The next stage of the drama occurred when even the Andhra Government now run by Rajiv Gandhi's Congress (I) denied entry to the two shiploads. After both State Governments had refused disembarkation, it was planned to divert the two ships from Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh to the Paradeep port in Orissa. But the idea was given up as it was found that the State machinery there was not in a position to handle such a large number of people. So the Andhra Pradesh Government agreed to their disembarkation at Visakhapatnam on condition that the refugees were immediately transported to Orissa by road. They were then taken in 29 buses to the Koraput district in Orissa, after waiting several hours both at sea and at the registration counters inside the port. They were thoroughly checked for any weapons before they joined the queue at the registration counters.

Among the Tribals

Meanwhile on the 10th, an Indian Air Force plane landed at the Orissa capital of Bhuvaneshwar, carrying a further 296 refugees, including the Secretary General of the EPRLF Mr K Padmanabha, two ministers of the Northeastern Provincial Council, ten council members and some unidentified leaders of the ENDLF and TELO and their families. Perumal's secretary K Vigneshwaran, his wife (a Sinhalese) and children were also reported among those who arrived in Bhuvaneshwar. The refugees later left for Malkangiri and Satiguda in the tribal-dominated Koraput district, about 625 km from Orissa capital.

Resentment all round

But that of course is not the end of the story. Firstly, official circles in Orissa are unhappy that Chief Minister Biju Patnaik had given in to Prime Minister V P Singh's request to house these people in Orissa. Sources speaking to The Hindu on condition of anonymity said that Mr Patnaik should have consulted the officials before giving his consent. The district administration has been suddenly over-burdened with the presence of these Sri Lankans, particularly in an area where the Naxalites of the People's War Group are already causing security problems. The Health Department at Koraput is not geared to meet the medical needs of this sudden influx in the district. A Times of India report dated March 13 says: "The Orissa Government appears to have bitten much more than it can chew by providing shelter to the EPRLF and ENDLF cadres and their families. Faced with the enormous task of providing an adequate security cover to the refugees from possible attacks by LTTE guerillas as well as to maintain law and order in the region known for its periodic pitched battles between the police and the Naxalites, the government officials are already beginning to throw up their hands in despair. To add to their woes, there is palpable tension in the air because of the resentment expressed by the local tribals against the encroachment of their area by the Tamil refugees. As it is, there have been a series of clashes between the tribals and the Bengali refugees resettled here after the Bangladesh war... Apart from the problem of providing security, the police are not quite sure how to handle the refugees themselves, most of whom are militants trained in guerilla warfare."

Bitterness among Refugees

As for the refugees themselves, "the bitterness over the Tamil Nadu Government's refusal to grant asylum to them is writ large on their faces", says a Special Correspondent writing to The Hindu. "The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister has buckled under the pressure of the LTTE", their leaders say. Perhaps to protect people like you from the LTTE group which are moving about in Tamil Nadu that the State Government has asked you not to enter there, a newsman suggested to a vocal EPRLF activist Sukumar. "We have no such fear" he said. "When

we, unarmed people, are in such dire straits, we are made to run from pillar to post. Is this the way Tamil Nadu Chief Minister is protecting the interests of Sri Lankan Tamils?... When we deserted the island, our destination was naturally a Tamil atmosphere. We are denied that privilege", he said.

One refugee who was interviewed, Mrs Manoranjithan, said: "My son and I who owe allegiance to the EPRLF have come, but my husband who is an independent person has refused to come saying that things would change for the better there and so there is no need to run away."

Another Times of India report says: " The refugee camp has an unusually large number of teenagers, all of whom describe their vocation as "warfare." And in the midst of such a militant lot, it is surprising to find out one of them named "Gandhi" Devaraj, who can speak quite a bit of Hindi. He said he was named "Gandhi" by the IPKF soldiers with whom he had worked for a long time...(possibly as an informer - Sourpuss). Of course not all the refugees are committed to leading a militant life-style for ever. There is 39-year old N Regal, who wishes to go to Madras and start his carpentry business. "We cannot live in Orissa indefinitely. How can we earn our livelihood here." That they cannot live here permanently is echoed by most of the refugees, some of whom have come with their families. Lodged in the Dandakaranya sheds, once used by refugees from East Bengal, the Sri Lankan Tamils appear to be distinctly unhappy in the otherwise picturesque surroundings. There are no toilets, no bathrooms. Men, women and children are forced to bathe in a canal nearby. The language is a major barrier too.. Even as one takes a look at the camp from an elevated site, the place presented a pathetic sight with the refugees huddled in groups behind barbed wire fencing, armed policemen keeping a constant vigil on them and the refugees themselves moving around with dazed look like the survivors of a shipwreck. "Lunch time" was at 4 p m. A long queue was seen before a makeshift kitchen for food. When they returned the plates contained just a lump of rice and a sprinkling of Sambar and assorted cooked vegetables. Asked whether the food is sufficient, a woman refugee just grinned and moved... some of the young men in their teens and 20s were in slings and heavy bandages for injuries said to have been caused in their fight with the LTTE."

Every passing day makes it worse

The Orissa Government is tying itself up in knots with every passing day. Tension is mounting among the tribal inhabitants, says a report in The Independent of 15th March. Police arrested a group of agitators for blocking the traffic leading to the Tamil shelter camps, but later let them off. Slogans like "Go back Sri Lankan Tamil refugees" echo the tribal-dominated district. Tribal organisations headed by the Koraput Zilla Adivasis Hari

jan Unnayan Parishad (Koraput district tribal harijan development council) has threatened to launch an agitation if the refugees are not withdrawn from the area immediately. The council has already sent memoranda to President Venkatraman, Chief Minister Biju Patnaik and Congress (I) president Rajiv Gandhi in this regard. Meanwhile, as the Dandakaranya resettlement of Bengal refugees is to be wound up soon, there is bound to be disenchantment among the Bengali settlers over the government's patronage of the Tamil refugees. Even a former Orissa minister and Congress (I) leader Raghunath Patnaik, a local MLA, in a strong statement threatened to "throw out the unwanted foreigners by force If the authorities failed to withdraw them immediately.

Another report says that within a week of their arrival here, the Tamil refugees have begun distress sale of their valuables and gold ornaments. Lanka currency of Rs 3 is being swapped for one Indian rupee... Intriguing is the sudden arrival of an MP of the Lanka Government (!) Mr Ananta Sankari with two others Mr Rajan and Mr Viji, supposed to belong to a TUL F faction. They are believed to have conferred in secrecy with ENDLF members at Malkangiri on March 12 night on the future course of action...

The latest report is that at least ten refugees have escaped from the camps !

But where is Perumal ?

Now that he has led his "people", unlike Moses, into a promise-less land, where is Mr Annamali Varadaraja Perumal ? Where have his "puppeteers" in RAW hidden him? The first report of course said that he was heading for "an unknown destination in India." Some said Bangalore, but that cannot be. Although the Bangalore climate is very mild, it can turn hot for Mr Perumal because there is a powerful pro-LTTE Indian Tamil lobby in the city. In Colombo when newsmen asked Foreign Minister Ranjan Wijeratne about the whereabouts of the UDI declarer, he said: "I understand he is in Mauritius.. perhaps he is helping the sugar industry." The Indian Government official in Delhi made a cryptic comment; he said he has been authorised to say that he was not in India! The Independent, Bombay in its column "Private Eye" (March 16) says: "Though Indian correspondents in Colombo have reported that Perumal has arrived in India, New Delhi has officially denied it. But the Chief Minister's family including his mother is known to have arrived by IPKF IL-76 aircraft from Trincomalee in Bhuvaneshwar....


Mail Us Copyright 1998/2009 All Rights Reserved Home