Umbilical Cord or Intellect?

India or China?

| by Gaja Lakshmi Paramasivam

(September 09,Melbourne, Sri Lanka Guardian) I respond to the article ‘Indian Assistance to Sri Lanka for Rehabilitation and Reconstruction – Few Reflections’ by V. Suryanarayan and Ashik Bonofer, published in Sri Lanka Guardian.

To me, this article in essence is about whether Indian help to Sri Lanka was/is to be through Belief, Merit or Likes-Dislikes?

Belief is largely through cultural connections between Tamils of Sri Lanka and India’s Tamil Nadu.

To me, the above are driven by the authors’ umbilical cord connections with Tamils of Indian origin. Some call it cronyism.
Merit – ought to be on the basis of rights and wrongs as per UN Principles and Values – as interpreted in the Indian Subcontinent.

All others fall within the area of Likes – Dislikes and are largely driven by the hip-pocket nerve/Popularity with voters.

The authors say ‘Colombo used to point out that in fighting the terrorist Tigers, Sri Lanka was, in many ways, fighting India’s battle against terrorism. But what New Delhi did not appreciate was the fact that the war against the Tigers was degenerating into a war against Tamil civilians. Thus a major change in India’s Sri Lanka policy took place. Unlike the pre-1987 period when New Delhi was determined not to permit a “military solution” to the ethnic problem, during the Fourth Eelam War India not only endorsed the war, but also provided assistance to Colombo in several ways.'

This seems largely to be on the basis of Government to Government – through their umbilical cords/ position connections. Compared to the connection with India, the connection with China is that of a new relationship and hence is taken to be on ‘likes and dislikes’ / business basis. The outcomes of the war with assistance from both countries therefore would be difficult to analyze on program basis alone, and needs to be done on project basis for China and broken down into program plus project basis for India . The deeper the belief basis – the greater the value through program basis.

To the people of Tamil Nadu, helping Tamils would have been Natural as per their cultural bonding over generations. But for this to influence New Delhi – the State Government Leaders and Central Government Leaders needed to feel the connection through their own umbilical positions as Governments. This seems stronger now than before – perhaps due to Lady Governors who usually Govern different to men. Usually, use of intuition is stronger with ladies – especially in issues concerning minorities. By 2009, this umbilical connection had become much weaker than pre IPKF (Indian Peace Keeping Force) period followed by the killing of India’s Rajiv Gandhi – which act was actively condemned by majority educated Tamils.

The authors say ‘It is well known that the Indian intelligence agencies provided vital information regarding the movement of Sea Tigers and the Sri Lankan Air Force was able to destroy the LTTE ships bringing arms supplies to the LTTE controlled areas. It may be recalled that when the Fourth Eelam War began, the Sea Tigers were in complete control of the Sri Lankan side of the Palk Bay, except the island of Mannar and the outer islands in the Jaffna peninsula. From 2006, the Sri Lankan armed forces began to extend its control from Mannar to Jaffna. One consequence was the umbilical cord which united the Tamil areas of Sri Lanka with Tamil Nadu was cut. Refugees could not escape from army atrocities and escape to Tamil Nadu as they used to do before. What is more, the Indian Coast Guard also extended a helping hand to Sri Lanka by undertaking co-ordinated patrolling in the Indian seas.’

In essence, to me this says that the belief based power of the umbilical connection was weakened by human intervention. This would be positive only if Sri Lanka as a whole has invested more in merit based intellectual discriminative thinking than in belief based thinking – including religious thinking. If even one civilian was blocked from fleeing the war area – to India’s Tamil Nadu – the return karma would be to weaken the investment by Sri Lankan Government in Buddhist culture. The Blessings of Lord Buddha would have become the Blessings of Lord Rama who redeemed Lankans from violence through Rama-Ravana war. That war was waged and won on merit basis to uphold Dharma.

The authors state ‘One tragic dimension of the IDP situation in Vavuniya unfortunately has not attracted the attention of New Delhi and Colombo. When Prof. Suryanarayan did field work in Vavuniya in 2004 he found that majority of the IDPs in Poomthottam were people of Indian origin. These people were encouraged to migrate to the northern parts as agricultural labour following the ethnic riots in the plantation areas after 1977 elections. NGO’s like the Gandhiyam were in the forefront championing integrated living between the Sri Lankan Tamils and the Estate Tamils. What is more, more and more land was being brought under the plough by Tamil landlords in Vavuniya area. Since the Sri Lankan Tamil middle class were unaccustomed to hard physical work, the Indian Tamil labourers filled the void. Whatever might have been the intentions of the NGO’s like Gandhiyam the Indian Tamils soon became the cannon fodder in the fratricidal conflict between the Sinhalese Lions and the Tamil Tigers. Finally, after several trials and tribulations, they landed in Poomthottam camp as IDPs. In the course of Prof. Suryanarayan’s conversation with them it became apparent that they did not have any roots in the hill country, therefore, the question of returning to the central province did not arise; they were also not keen to go back to Kilinochi and other places because they had no land to cultivate. Prof. Suryanarayan brought the tragic plight of these people to the attention of the leaders of the Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC), but they did not evince any interest in the subject.’

To me, the above are driven by the authors’ umbilical cord connections with Tamils of Indian origin. Some call it cronyism. Indian civilians could help Indian Tamils through their umbilical connections – the same way we Tamils of Sri Lanka help Tamils on private / social basis out of our own pockets. But when it comes to helping publicly – it needs to be through the principles underlying war-recovery and should not be to compensate for any apparent loss due to work structures and regulations prior to the war. Sri Lanka’s structures are different to India’s and Indian employers do not have the benefit of our wisdom in relation to employment in a natural environment. Estate Tamils of Indian origin should not be confused with Business Indians – many of whom have taken the positions vacated by Business Tamils who have migrated to the West and to India.

It’s true that Sri Lankan Tamil middle class tended to be employers of Estate Indians. We employed them in Colombo homes too. Now Indian Businessmen employ them in their Colombo homes. That is the labor hierarchy and has very little to do with whether they are Indians or Sri Lankans. Habitually, it was common for Indian Tamils to be classed below Sri Lankan Tamils – especially when it came to marriage. But now all that has changed due to the war and refugees in India. Indian artists have always been treated as upper-class artists compared to Sri Lankan Tamil artists.

IDPs of Indian origin may not want to go back to Kilinochchi due to not having owned land prior to their displacement. But if they were employed prior to their displacement – there would be opportunities for them to work under landowners – very like them working for Indian Businessmen in Colombo.

The authors recommend ‘We feel that two remedial steps could be immediately initiated; first, the Government could start vegetable farms on a big scale and these people could be employed as labourers. Second, the Government should undertake a study of manpower requirements necessary for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the north and the east, and after that these people could be provided with necessary skilled training and employed meaningfully’

The question that comes to my mind is ‘Who would be ‘seen’ as the employers of these labourers? Would it be Sinhalese or Tamils?’

If Indian Labourers are to be treated on ‘project basis’ then so should the lower castes Tamils in various parts of Sri Lanka. They are all work related statuses and one needs to restructure the Human Resource structure as a total and not do patch work by separating some groups from the other. If Indian Government was so concerned – it should have used the feelings of Indians to remove all civilians from the war zone – before attacking the LTTE rebels. There were more Tamils of Lankan origin who lost their lives and who gave up their lives in their pursuit of ‘freedom’ in the way they thought they had, than Tamils of Indian origin.

It’s time we started assessing through the Guna/Trait than through what happened alone. We Tamils of Sri Lanka have sacrificed much towards self-governance. This needs to be valued and respected. It will be by any good government.

Where an issue involves Belief, it needs to be surrendered to God/Nature/Truth after we have done all within our human power but without particular objectively measurable targets. Just this morning, Mr. Saba Amirthalingam (Australian of Sri Lankan Tamil origin), President of Carlingford Sai Center, sent me a message from Swami Sai Baba (Indian) about surrender – through a young Indian student:

‘GOD DOES NOT WANT ANYTHING FROM YOU SIR !! At every point in time if you remind yourself that, "Whatever is happening is good for me" then you have surrendered to me.

When you use the clutch, the change of gears is smooth !! Similarly in life, there are 4 gears: HAPPINESS, SORROW, HAPPINESS, SORROW. Just as in car, our lives too continue whether we are in happiness or in sorrow but the problem arises only when there is change or transition from happiness to sorrow and vice-versa. Thus for life too there is a clutch !! The clutch for life is the thought that, "Whatever happens is good for me !" This is what Krishna told Arjuna in the Gurukshetra battle field.’

Swami Sai Baba, in whom leaders of India as well as Sri Lanka have faith - has the Highest Position in my mind. Swami is Indian. This does not mean that I would give higher place than myself to an Indian Chartered Accountant. It’s my profession and I owe it to my profession to use professional basis and not social or political basis. Likewise, workers of Indian origin, living in Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan jobs need to be for Sri Lankans first – even if the Cash Capital is from India or China. Jobs in Tamil areas need to be for Tamils first because according to Democratic leadership of the International Community, there is an ethnic problem in Sri Lanka. Accepting that genuinely needs to be the first step taken by the Government.

Sri Lanka’s Gurukshetra battle is not over yet. That battle is between Good Governance and Bad Governance. Good Governance includes surrender to Truth after all efforts through merit basis have been exhausted. When we surrender – the work is no longer ours. It becomes the Lord’s – in this instance the Lord of Independence – Lord Muruga common to both sides. To surrender, we need to believe that the Lord’s solution would be Good for all of us and would be highest and therefore would include returns due to all genuine investors. Any weaknesses in the person surrendering her/his work is also pooled into the Lord’s Commonwealth. That would prevent us from handing out answers as if Tamils were fourth-class citizens in this issue of Independence. Handouts to Tamils of Indian origin would certainly reduce their sense of Independence and therefore the status at which we as a Community are known and seen.

The side that surrenders its work to Natural Justice would lead the next generation. Outcomes including of Eelam War IV are secondary and need to be lost consciousness of towards higher Global leadership. All those seeking to ‘profit’ from the outcomes of the Battle of Vanni are promoting more Battles and are effectively confirming that they helped the Sri Lankan Government for their own purposes – including to quickly promote Tamils of Indian origin above Tamils of Lankan origin. Outsiders need to use the merit basis consciously or ‘stay within their home boundaries’. Then we insiders would confidentially cure ourselves through our inner strengths and recover and continue to govern ourselves as we have done for centuries.

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