Legitimacy of the Tamil course and illegitimacy of LTTE

By Ravi Sundaralingam

(April 22, Chennai, Sri Lanka Guardian) If cynics have their way everything uttered on any issue during the elections in India are worthy as a line drawn on water. Yes it is true, politicians make promises with no intention of keeping them, and most of the times serious intention also get wiped out in the vastness of the Indian polity. Yet sadly, the cynicism stems from those who are rightly proud of their democracy while deeply unhappy about its process.

No one undermines any political system as much as those who have benefited from it so much, the middles classes; herein we may find the reasons for their failings. In India the poor and the desperate, like parents of the little girls who abstain from drinking water during seven hours of schooling in the slums to avoid peeing for lack of toilets or those peasants queue up to vote amid the threats of suicide bombs and reprisals in Kashmir valleys, they will and have to continue to hold faith in the system despite their despicable experiences, hoping against hope that one day it will deliver. It is their hope, and faith on which the great Indian democracy and humanity survives and thrives.

The Tamils of Ceylon on the other hand has had no luxury to put their hope in anywhere other than faith to make any such claim. As their-will an entity was hijacked and invested into a single project though a single institution, the LTTE. Therefore, when Talaivar Dr. Karunaniti makes a few waves regarding our struggle and terrorism, we are less inclined to be cynical. In fact, whatever his reasons we would want to see only the hope within them, hope someone from our communities, including Sinhala communities, will take a lead and make something positive out of them. If so, what do we make out the following comments by the Indian elder statesman of politics and the elected leader of the Tamil speaking communities world over, Talaivar Karunanithi?

1. Tamils’ course and aims in their war against the Sri Lankan state are legitimate and venerable.

2. The LTTE are not terrorists, but there may be a few elements within it that certainly are.

3. The LTTE leader, Mr. V. Pirbaharan is not a terrorist, and in fact, a friend of mine.

4. The basic differences between him and me are about our differing views on democracy and the ‘conduct’ of the LTTE within the struggle.

5. The Tamil struggle is in disarray because of the disunity within the movement.

Natural reaction by those who are ignorant or with hidden agenda would be to dismiss them as a last-ditch effort of an old man aimed at the vote-bank preserving his empire built over a long period though humbug and corruption for his children. It would be also reasonable to interpret as a natural reaction to the new alliance between the AIDMK, Vaiko, Ramadas and Co and the new language spoken by Ms. Jeyalalitha about the Tamils in Ceylon, Eelam and all that.

However, for those watching the developments bit more intently, in the Tamil homelands and Tamil Nadu, there are messages well beyond Tamil Eelam cause and vote-bank politics of Tamil Nadu. Let us make ourselves unambiguously clear, in a democracy the politicians may have all the say for most of the time, but the people do shape their thinking on matters vital to them over that long period as development slowly become a key factor in their lives.

It is therefore, an absolute duty of the politicians to exploit any issue to the advantage of their people, and the failure to do so has repercussions to everyone concerned. When the majority’s views are kept under control because of the outrageous behaviours of a few, by a few, only outrages will reign supreme.

One can see the truth of this by looking at the period we as Tamils in Ceylon have just endured, the period that followed the dastardly murder of Rajiv Gandhi and the LTTE’s war against the IPKF.

1. No one, either the Tamils of Ceylon or the politicians of Tamil Nadu, except those with hidden agenda and the LTTE were able to air their views in India and put them in practice, and fight it out.

2. The middle ground within Tamil movement was completely swiped clean by extremism posted by the LTTE and anti-LTTE supporters, and in Tamil Nadu only the fringe politicians who supported the LTTE and those campaigned on Sri Lanka’s behalf spoke of our plight.

3. Sri Lanka was able to sell its version and vision, among the good and the influential people, despite its bombing, shelling, and raining the whole terrain with missiles, devoid of any meaningful proposal at the end, thanks to the LTTE for the hatred and the sense of insecurity it has built around its activities.

4. Such that, India has been supporting the Sri Lankan military campaign to defeat the LTTE with material and logistical support of plenty.

5. Such that, India has canvassed and fronted the International opinion against the LTTE, on behalf of the Sri Lankan State, and until now helping to hold on to those views.

6. As a result, the Tamils of Ceylon forever linked to their brethren in Tamil Nadu, despite their superiority-complexes, loyal to the core to the Indian Family, except for the few misguided, always considered as an asset of India, are now devalued as an expendable commodity.

7. As a result, the LTTE terrorism was used as a weapon to re-brand the struggle of the Tamils, a legitimate and the fundamental right of a people to defend them, as terrorism itself.

8. As a result Tamils are now on the verge of being defeated as a people, just as the Aborigines of Australia or the Indians of North America.

Are we then saying that with a few syllables Talaivar Karunaniti has changed all those above? Did he say all that purely for the good of the Tamils in Ceylon? Would he have said what he did if there have been a stagnant situation without the provocations from the opposition AIDMK and its allies to support ‘Eelam’ if there are no substantial devolution package from Sri Lanka, and the outpouring of emotions from the ordinary Tamils, not to mention the numerous self-immolations at the sight of the desperate Tamils languishing at the hands of the Sri Lankan armed forces? Certainly not.

Has he flipped his mind, confusing history with emotions or selfish motives? Why would he say that Mr. Pirabaharan was his friend and later retract it, when it isn’t a fact, and he was close to Sri Sabaratnam, the leader of TELO that was wiped out by the LTTE, before the Delhi Talks? Why would he want to say that Pirabaharan is not a terrorist but some of his subordinates may be, when he knows very well that the Indian judiciary has already indicted him for the murder of Rajiv Gandhi?

We think the old man is astute and resourceful as always, keeping one eye firmly on the electorates and other looking beyond the abyss the Tamils face.

Even if he weren’t it should matter not as we see an opportunity, taken to be a lifeline thrown towards the Tamils and their leaderships. The question is not about his intention, but the context and the circumstances at which he has made his intervention. The question is not about his perspective on history or motives, but about the leadership of our people and their ability to see and grasp an opportunity, just as the opportunistic Tamil Nadu politicians as the cynics will have us believe.

If you are sinking in mid-ocean and someone passing on a boat throw a rope, it would not be the time to ponder its nature or the intention of the person, or worry whether it would turn out to be a noose around your neck? If you are already deep down, only bobbing up and down what does it matter? Grasp it and make something of it.

It is apt to mention one our friend’s ‘mulla story”, a serious humorous stories mainly from Persia, in which Mulla was in serious trouble caught in a storm on a sea, with a hole in his boat. He prayed for help and soon a boat passed by, and the captain threw him a rope, which Mulla declined to take saying, “god will help me”. After a few more offers of help, and Mulla not taking any of them meant he was soon dead. In heaven when he met the god, “why have you forsaken me?” he asked, for which god replied, “you are a fool, you cannot see the help I sent your way.”

That is why we said, whatever Talaivar intended to do or not to do we as a people in serious need see only possibilities. With the politically explosive interview to Srinivasan Jain of NDTV this Sunday (19.04.09), and with the help of other political parties and personal sacrifices of a few in Tamil Nadu, he has brought the plight of the Ceylon Tamils,

1. to the forefront of politics in Tamil Nadu and India, even if it is temporary, its importance is precisely because of elections.

2. to the centre-politics, than leaving it to the fringes, therefore can no longer be ignored as the domain of the anti-Indian, anti-centre rhetoric and a taboo subject, not to be discussed in public by decent people, though some in control of the business so far will no doubt try put the genie back in the bottle.

3. to the sight of the policy makers, who are for understandable reasons psychologically hampered by thought of guilt, constantly reminded to them by those with hidden agenda, for moving forward from the time-wrap that brought paralysis to clear-thinking due to the heinous murder of Rajiv Gandhi. At this point we must remember the magnanimous gesture by Priyanka Gandhi when she visited Nalini, one of those convicted for the part in her father’s murder, in prison to bring a closure for her personal tragedy.

Beyond these,

4. it is even possible to suggest, the most important outcome on the long run due to his outburst would be the spelling out of the intentions and specifics of the next Indian government regarding the Tamils of Ceylon, especially if it is to require numbers in the Lok Sabha to form a majority.

5. in a strange manner his comments have also made it easy for those in Delhi, the policy makers and power brokers, despite their objections and dissatisfactions to deal with an issue that would not go away either way. By ignoring the problem and wishing it go away would only be an issue for the Tamil Nadu politicians, always destabilising the region. By going the full hog to destroy the Tamils as a sizeable population to prevent them ever again harbouring a thought of uprising against the Sinhala state would be a tragedy for Tamil Nadu and India as much for the Ceylon Tamils.

6. one can also detect a demand through a process, be that is established using the issues facing the Ceylon Tamils; for a regional role of an important Dravidian state. The new ‘competition’ to champion the Tamil cause between the major Tamil Nadu parties, someone wrongly referred to as Dravidian chauvinism as the Sinhalese also belong to that group of people, has its own particular origins and passage through wilderness, which still has to find its natural end. Politicians from Tamil Nadu may not be considered, by some intellectuals astute enough to make such a subtle claim, then again behaviour and actions of politicians when there are underlying issues will have their own course to run.

A while ago, when we suggested in a seminar in ORF-Chennai (21.08.07) that Tamils have no real leadership, and they should confer Talaivar Karunanithi the responsibility to lead and facilitate for all the Tamil groups to come to a Minimum of Understanding (MoU), we were ridiculed and some in Sri Lanka even called us Tiger Representatives. Later, when we suggested that the empowerment of Tamil Nadu as the only means to salvage the basic rights of the Tamils in Ceylon, in a paper published by SAAG, in 2008 (SAAG, No: 2894), someone questioned our knowledge of the Tamil Nadu politicians and some of our kin even called us RAW-agents.

Such is the blindness and the ferocity of their hatred for each other, the Sinhala state as well as the LTTE, every possibility is dismissed well before being considered. With the comments Talaivar has made and the promises Ms. Jeyalalitha and her allies are making our suggestions seem reasonable, and for which the time has slowly arriving, provided seeking a resolution to a primitive crisis is our noble aim.

If the elected leader of the Tamils has come down halfway, whether it is Dr. M. Karunaniti or Ms. Jeyalalitha, be that with false pretensions, to open up a line of thought, it is then the duty of the LTTE and the Tamil leadership to meet him there. Instead of making their tasks difficult or good intentions remain just where they are or prove them to be a phoney, we as the Tamil people of Ceylon should address the security concerns of India in the region and come clean of their past so that the Tamil agenda can move forward.

For that,

1. Accepting the ownership, not necessarily the culpability, for the murder of Rajiv Gandhi would be the first step.

2. More importantly, accepting the strategic mistake of ejecting the IPKF would be the second step.

3. With equal importance, accepting every Tamil or Muslim group as part of a representative body of our people would be the very next step.

4. Accepting that Tamil issues can be settled within a united Sri Lanka, thereby assuring Sinhala people of our eventual intentions is far more important.

Dr. Karunaniti and Ms. Jeyalaitha have opened up the bounds of a set of parameters, which look unrelated nonsense at the first sight. Yet, they offer possibilities for a peaceful resolution for a crisis that has lingered on, well beyond its time, from which even the Sinhala governments can benefit.

The writer is a London based expatriate Sri Lankan Tamil and the The Academic Secretary of ASATiC. He can be reached at E-Mail:- academic.secretary@gmail.com
-Sri Lanka Guardian
Nandaguptha said...

What Sri Lankans are looking forward is to live peacefully accepting and embracing the value of each ethnic group’s with respect. Each ethnic group adds their culture, discipline and array of values to the greater society. The country is looking forward to implement a Sri Lankan agenda, which comprise of peace, unity, equality and economic prosperity for all the citizens. If one ethnic group is panning to have a separate agenda which will takes us back to the LTTE era, it will be very detrimental to the growth of a pluralistic society. There will be no room for separations in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan Tamils were mainly oppressed by the Tamil elites and politicians who mostly lived in Colombo. To be in power they kept a majority of Tamils from getting to know the rest of the country. Tamil politicians and extremists purposely controlled the number of Sinhalese working and living in the north while enjoying unlimited access to the south. These artificial barriers have to be lifted. People should be allowed and encouraged to live any where in the country regardless of their ethnicity.

Tamils who worked with and lived with the people in the South had great respect for other ethnic groups. If Tamil people truly and sincerely involve in the development of Sri Lanka as citizens of Sri Lanka, others will respect them and trust them. Any of the ethnic groups do not have to give up their cultural identity to become part of the Sri Lankan community. But they should not have an agenda to divide the country or limit other ethnic group’s rights to live in a free democratic society. Sri Lankan Tamil’s identity remains with Sri Lanka not with Tamil Nadu. Tamil Nadu politician’s behavior depends on the amount of election campaign contributions, and the number of votes. Sri Lankan Tamils should pay more attention to find a way to win the hearts of the majority as much as the majority has the responsibility of winning the hearts of the minorities. Tamils will be much better off living with harmony in Sri Lanka than begging for the Tamil Nadu politician’s attention.