The Dravidian parties, however, are hardly bothered about the welfare or needs of Sri Lanka's minority Tamils.
Once Tamils in Sri Lanka fought a bitter and long war with Sinhalas for Eelam or separate homeland. Today, the two Dravidian political parties in India representing Tamil interests are fighting for Eelam on the island. Sort of!
One of the two Dravidian parties now ruling Tamil Nadu – All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) – under the leadership of Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, passed a resolution in the assembly on Wednesday demanding that New Delhi move the United Nations Security Council for a referendum on Eelam. The resolution also urged the federal government in New Delhi to stop treating Sri Lanka as a friend.
Last week, the other Dravidian party, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), under the former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, MK Karunanidhi, walked out of the federal coalition government, headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The DMK was upset over New Delhi’s unwillingness to declare the post-2009 killings of Tamils (by Sri Lankan Sinhala forces) “genocide”.
The Tamil party had wanted India’s Parliament to pass a resolution accusing Colombo of “genocide”. The DMK also wanted New Delhi to urge the UN to pass a resolution holding Sri Lanka guilty of “genocide”. These did not happen.
If Tamil Nadu politics is slipping into dangerous Tamil sub-nationalism, the latest assembly resolution by the AIADMK government reeks of one-upmanship in which the interests of the state and the country are being overlooked.
Worse, as a Firstpost commentator put it, “…Sri Lankan Tamils find that their genuine demand for political devolution within the Sri Lankan Constitution has been hijacked by diaspora politics and the short-sighted political games being played in Tamil Nadu”.
Unfortunately, the Dravidian parties seem hardly bothered about the welfare or needs of the island nation’s minority Tamils.
There is an urgent necessity for the rehabilitation of Tamils, bruised and battered as they are after a 30-year civil war, spearheaded by Vellupillai Prabhakaran. His Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) demanding an independent homeland for Tamils in the northern and eastern regions of Sri Lanka, fought government forces through highly questionable methods, including the use of child soldiers and suicide bombers. Prabhakaran was killed a few years ago.
If the island’s Tamils are to be rehabilitated in the fullest sense of the term, they must have a measure of political autonomy and representation in the government. Even the majority Lankan Sinhalas agree with these.
But moderate voices in Sri Lanka – and even in India – are being muffled by the competitive politics played by the DMK and AIADMK. Each wants to be ahead of the other, hoping that this will get them Tamil votes in India.
Such silencing of moderate voices reminds us of the days in the 1980s and 1990s, when the LTTE murdered rational and restrained Tamil leaders in Sri Lanka – paving the way for the bloody civil war, which closed the doors on debates and discussions.
Sankaran Krishna, a professor at the University of Hawaii, quipped that it would be unwise for Lankan Tamils to have faith in the AIADMK or DMK. Which are “merely competing to out-Thamizh each other”.
There is also a growing feeling that the Dravidian parties have been using the Sri Lankan Tamil issue, including the demand for independent Eelam, to promote Tamil nationalism in India.
However, one hopes that Tamils in India and Sri Lanka are intelligent enough to see through this Dravidian game.
Gautaman Bhaskaran is India Editor of FMT, and Chennai-based author, columnist and movie critic. He may be emailed at[email protected]