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Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > International Frame of Struggle for Tamil Eelam > India & the Struggle for Tamil Eelam > A.P.Venkateshwaran, former Indian Foreign Secretary - Excerpts from Speech, 7 March 1999
India & the Struggle for Tamil Eelam
Excerpts from speech at Eelam Tamils Solidarity
"I do not understand why the people of Tamil Nadu who have a courageous reputation for bravery are keeping silent on this matter. We are lacking in courage now and we must regain it soon. Mahatma Gandhi cherished Ahimsa but he would have preferred violence if he was asked to choose between cowardice and violence. So we should not behave like cowards.
Rajiv Gandhi foolishly sent Indian troops to Sri Lanka in 1987. But what happened afterwards was the Tamils were persecuted by the troops. The war against the Tamils was escalated. When the then Sri Lankan President J.R. Jayawardene met Rajiv Gandhi in 1986 during the SAARC conference in Bangalore, Jayawardene warned Rajiv that it would be dangerous for India if a separate state were be established in Eelam and then extended by merging Tamil Nadu. Rajiv easily believed what Jayawardene said.
I talked to Rajiv immediately after JR left, as it was not proper for me to interfere in the talks between the two heads of state. I said that things would never develop the way Jayawardene's predicted. 'This was rubbish. Tamil Nadu never be separated from India - and I like to say this as a Tamil'. But he, Rajiv believed what the head of a neighbouring state said than what I said. The Indian Peace Keeping Force was sent to Sri Lanka within a few months after I resigned my job.
You all know what happened after this - thousands of Eelam Tamils were killed and more than 1500 Indian troops lost their lives. In the end, the Indian troops were asked to withdraw from Sri Lanka without any gratitude.
In 1974, during the International Tamil Research conference proceedings, anti Tamil violence was instigated in Jaffna. The JVP's (Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna) 1971 agitation demonstrated that the policies of the Sinhala government were not only against the Tamil students and the Tamil people but also against the Sinhala students and the Sinhala masses. During the agitation, Indira Gandhi sent the Indian forces and helped the Sri Lankan government to wipe out the striking Sinhala students. It is estimated that 16 to 20 thousand Sinhala youths were massacred during this period. So it wasn't a surprise that her son sent the Indian Peace Keeping Force to Sri Lanka.
The trouble with the big 'states like India and America.. is that they attempt to behave oppressively when they have to deal with the small countries.
There is no opportunity for the Tamils and the Sinhalese to live together any more. The solution should be based on a confederation of states. The Liberation Tigers movement is justified in its actions. I would firmly say that India should not be partial to any side in the Sri Lankan conflict. However, what the Indian government has done so far was against the interests of our Tamil brothers and not against others. When I say that the government shouldn�t be involved that doesn't mean that the people of Tamil Nadu should keep quiet.
India is a democratic country. If the people of South India as a whole demand that Delhi refuses to tolerate the Sinhala government's action against the Tamils, the Indian government is bound to do something about it.
The Sri Lankan government granted citizenship to over a million Tamil estate workers who live in the Sri Lankan hill country because of the brave struggle of the Liberation Tigers. They [Tigers] have achieved more than maintaining the dignity of the Sri Lankan Tamils. Do you know what that was? I'll tell you - they have made the Sri Lankan government grant citizenship to the hill country Tamils.
The credit for getting citizenship for the hill country Tamils shouldn't go to the Sri Lankan government and it shouldn't go to the Indian government which have been worked against them. The credit should go to Pirabaharan, the leader of the LTTE.
The independent state of Tamil Eelam is the only solution for this conflict. What is wrong with supporting the Liberation Tigers who lead the struggle with dedication and without any help from outside? I must tell you that our news media doesn't report properly about what happens in Sri Lanka. I feel that no one has any right to criticise a leader who is ready to fight without any concern for his life. I would strongly say that there is no other guerrilla movement that is equal to the Liberation Tigers in bravery and dedication.The men and women fighters fight with dedication without a question of defeat. We praise them for their courage. If we want do something, we have to take action in whatever way possible, rather than just talking about it.