Will India back demands of Sri Lankan Tamils post elections? 

Staff Writer | Author . පරිවර්තනය කරන්න සිංහල හෝ தமிழ் 7/17/2020 10:54:00 AM
Will India back demands of Sri Lankan Tamils post elections? 

Sections of the Indian Chennai-based English-language media and Colombo-based Tamil-language media have highlighted, in their reports, the recent election propaganda speeches of three leaders of the constituents of  Tamil National Alliance (TNA). Namely   Rajvarodhayam Sampanthan,  Sivagnanam Sri Daran, and Tharmalingam Sitharthan  - focusing on their statement that India was watching them closely and was behind them in relation to their legitimate demands on the long-denied rights of Tamils.  They were also quoted as saying that  India wanted them to form a formidable force by working in close alliance with the hill country Tamil leaders of Indian origin.

With the general elections only three weeks ahead and election campaigns are impaired throughout the country due to the coronavirus pandemic, and very much so in the North and East due to other unexplained reasons as well, whether their speeches focusing on India’s commitment is an election-related gimmick or they sincerely believe that India would come for their rescue at times of desperate need on addressing the Tamils’ grievances and contrive for a lasting solution to fulfill the just political demands of the Tamils is anyone’s guess.

But the history of bilateral relations between the two countries over the years, especially after independence, bears strong witness to the fact that India has always focused on the strategy of her geopolitical interests, more than on resolving the ethnic problem of the Sri Lankan Tamils. The internationalized issues of human rights, humanitarian problems,  ethnic disturbances,  the so-called ethnic genocides, and even the three-decade-long civil war have been used by India primarily for safeguarding her regional interests and her interventions on behalf of the Sri Lankan Tamils were due to pressure from the Tamil Nadu regional government. 

With China in the backyard and progressively gaining a stronger foothold in Sri Lanka, India is now more concerned over her geopolitical and regional interests. India has already established a right to intervene and has made her presence and age-old relations known to the world through the continued support and interactions with the hill country plantation community, the Northeast Tamils. All India's huge rehabilitation, resettlement and livelihood projects, the displacements of a majority of the Tamil population of the North and East and the provision of refugee status to over 100,000 Tamils and their natural increase in Tamil Nadu for the last more than 30 years and the staggering amounts to the Sri Lankan government for infrastructure, rehabilitation,  resettlement, and housing projects are also major aspects of India's strategic presence over the decades and centuries.  

Whatever the TNA  leaders might say now with the August 5 general elections in mind, their political approach always focussed on one particular aspect only and that is playing on and taking advantage of the emotions and sentiments of the North-East Tamils, who are intertwined with the now-defunct LTTE and its activities in the past, with at least one member of every family has been a combatant in the movement, or having martyred or maimed and the tragic memories of the bygone days are still fresh in their minds with ever-present hopes that ’ what has been buried deep down will bloom again' through their political forces and their internationalized efforts.  The  Tamil political parties that are constituents of the TNA – the Ilankai Thamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK) led by both Mavai Senadhirajah and Rasavorodhayam Sampanthan, the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization (TELO) led by Selvam Adaikkalanathan and the People’s Liberation Organization of Thamil Eelam (PLOTE) led by Tharmalingam Sitharthan -  were all involved with and supported the LTTE during its heyday and the people supported their ideologies simply because of their family involvement with the LTTE and its activities and now too they foster the same sentiments for the same reasons and anticipating that their right for self-determination and a life of dignity will be fulfilled either through a  federal system or my other suitable civil administrative arrangement.

While TELO leader Selvam Adaikkalanathan was quoted as saying at his recent election meeting in his party office in Mannar that the TNA was now working out on ways and means of absorbing the ex-LTTE combatants and former members into the party and they were appealing sincerely to them to join the party and join the democratic mainstream, which, in turn,  implies that the TNA is very much bent upon on benefiting from the sentiments of the North-East Tamils and their attachment to the LTTE.   He has also been quoted as saying that the TNA was founded to achieve a certain major goal for the Tamils and that achieving that goal will be strengthened only when the ex-combatants and members joined the TNA. TNA frontliner and party spokesman  M.A.Sumanthiran, in an interview with a Colombo-based Tamil-language daily, has been quoted as saying that the TNA  had not abandoned its demand on a federal-based solution of the ethnic problem and that SJB leader  Sajith Premadasa’s statement to the media, on the contrary, was unfounded and incorrect, again implying that the TNA is toeing the line of the LTTE.

TNA leader R.Sampanthan  has been quoted as saying at a recent function in Batticaloa that the TNA held talks repeatedly with successive governments and their leaders unsuccessfully seeking a just and lasting solution to the Tamil problem, with the backing of India and the international community, and they would continue the negotiations process in the future as well.  The Tamils of the North and East being a distinct ethnic community and having their right for nationality status and self-determination, their demand has to be fulfilled and that their demands are recognized and approved by the international community. These too are statements appeasing the sentiments of the North-East Tamil voters.

One has to wait to see whether or not  India would help the Sri Lankan Tamils to get any devolution of powers beyond the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord of July 1987 formulated and signed by India herself and the 13th Amendment which was a sequel to it providing for the provincial councils. The TNA and other political forces of the North and East claim that the powers of the Provincial Councils fall short of the aspirations of the Tamils. While the TNA and other Tamil political parties of the North and East demand powers beyond the 13th Amendment, including fiscal, land and police powers, political observers believe that India will not violate her own Peace Accord, that paved the way for the creation of the provincial councils.