NOW that the United Nations Human Rights Council has finally adopted a US-sponsored resolution on Human Rights violation in Sri Lanka, with 25 countries in the 47-strong body, including India, supporting it, one hopes Karunanidhi and his cohorts– including, separately, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa – will understand that their defence of Sri Lanka Tamils is not only wrong but outdated. Whatever the background, the Tamils in Sri Lanka have no business to demand bifurcation of the State and the formation of a Tamil Eelam within that island.
Worse, they should not have resorted to armed conflict. History is full of such offensive and blood-letting demands. In Sri Lanka, of course the terrorist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has been righly wiped out, as could only have been expected, though a fanatic fringe seems determined to continue pushing the Eelam concept in the Tamil heartland in India. Their mindless violence, as for example, against a visting Sri Lankan Buddhist monk has put at risk India’s own moral authority to persuade Rajapaksha towards a political settlement.
India which is a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural nation cannot possibly support Tamil separatism in Sri Lanka. Doing so would be signing its own death warrant. This must be made very clear to the likes of Karunanidhi and his gang. The Partition of India and what happened thereafter should have its own message. Mohammad Ali Jinnah wanted Pakistan. He got it at great cost to the people – millions were uprooted and Pakistan itself has turned out to be a failed state. Mujhibur Rehman wanted Bangladesh and he got it too, at just as great cost to the people. Human Rights were abused extensively by the Pakistan Army which killed as many as three million Bengalis and raped some four lakh women. The same Pakistan Army executed an estimated 991 teachers, 13 journalists, 49 physicians, 42 lawyers and sixteen writers. Where was the US then? Baluchistan wants freedom now, so does the North-West Frontier Province. Shias are now being killed regularly in Pakistan. Why isn’t the United States calling Islamabad to order? And Jinnah, may it be remembered is a Shia who didn’t know a word of Urdu.
Separatism is nothing new-Protestants in Ireland wanted separation from Catholics and to think that both were in their heritage, Irish. Much killing went on, till Northern Ireland came to be acknowledged as a separate state. Take the case of Yugoslavia. Following rebellion among its constituent provinces, between 1991 and 1995 as many as 13,583 were killed in Croatia and 64,034 in Bosnia. Over 4 million people were displaced. In the Bosnian war, according to a UN Commission of experts, between 20,000 to 50,000 women, mostly Muslims, were raped. And to think that not even in such a small island as Cyprus where people of Greek and Turkish origin have lived together, has here been a sense of unity. Division has been the name of the game. How stupid can one be? When people should learn to live together, agree to compromise and grow in peace, the situation has been just the opposite.
During the twenty years (1955-1975) war in Vietnam between 195,000 and 430,000 south Vietnamese were killed as did between 50,000 to 65,000 North Vietnamese. And the Army of the Republic of Vietnam lost between 1,71,331 and 2,20,357 men. The Americans had no business to get involved in the Vietnamese civil war. Their fear was that – and it turned out to be a mis-judgement – that if all of Vietnam turned communist, one by one, nations to its west would also turn communist. The US in its determination to prevent that, itself lost 58,282 of its own men. It was a sheer waste of human lives. Much the same thing happened in Cambodia in a different context with the Khmer Rouge killing between 1 to 3 million out of a population of 8 million.
One remembers these facts to point out that violence does not pay, but in a multi-ethnic, multi-cultured society, wisdom suggests that compromises are worked out for the ultimate good of everyone. The demand for Eelam was wrong in principle, but having defeated the LTTE it is the sacred duty of the Colombo government to see that confidence is restored among the Tamils, that their welfare is taken care of, that every possible step is taken to bring Tamilians into the mainstream and everyone of their legitimate deeds are met.
On the part of the Tamilians they must realise that separatism is no answer to their progress and prosperity and they must strive to win over the hearts of the majority. As for mainland Tamilians, the sooner they realise that it is not their job to interfere in the domestic affairs of Sri Lanka, the better for all concerned. For its bad handling of the Tamil issue India has paid dearly with the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi.
The Sri Lankan government has much to answer for. It is no secret that the Rajpaksha government has made no genuine effort to treat Tamils as equal citizens. It makes no sense to argue that during the British regime, the Tamils were the ones who literally ruled the roost because of their higher educational and economic standing. To recollect the past to justify condemnation in the present makes no sense. Besides, the Rajapaksha Government must be told in the bluntest tone that trying to bring China in the picture is to play with fire. Sri Lanka is India’s closest neighbour and any show of bellicosity on the part of the Sri Lanka government and any attempt by it to try to play India against China can lead to severe consequences. India has a stake in the peace and prosperity of Sri Lanka as a whole – and that includes stability in the Tamil majority districts in the north and east of the island. India has tried wisely to avoid inflaming Sinhala nationalist sentiments but this must be understood in today’s context, and should not be taken as a sign of weakness on the part of Delhi.
Importantly, the Karunanidhis and Jayalalithaas must be warned not to interfere in Sri Lanka affairs for strictly local reasons. India’s foreign policy is not for Tamil leaders in Tamil Nadu to dictate. By attempting to blackmail the UPA, the DMK has done no service to the Tamils in Sri Lanka, let alone to India as a whole. The aim should be to establish the good of all and that calls for patience, forbearance and the aim to fulfil the greatest good to the greatest number. Is that too much to ask in these strife filled times?
Buddhism forbids violence of all kinds, physical, mental and ought else, a point worth remembering.