If you didn’t know already, I’m from India. And if you did know that, well here’s another thing you might not have known: I live in one of the southern states in India, called Tamil Nadu (meaning Land of the Tamils). It is situated near the country of Sri Lanka, I think its a one-hour flight from the state capital Chennai to Colombo, the erstwhile capital of Sri Lanka.
So there, I’ve explained the geography.
The northern part of Sri Lanka is mostly populated by settlers from Tamil Nadu who were transported to the country to work on plantations there by, who else, the British, during the colonial times. The Sinhalese comprise the majority population in Sri Lanka. The Tamils were routinely looked down upon by the Sinhalese, and do not enjoy all the consitutional rights and freedom that the Sinhalese enjoy. Once Sri Lanka gained independence, the Tamils began their demand for equal rights, which were studiously ignored by the Sinhalese. Soon protests turned violent, and after a series of massacres on either sides, (I’m not going to research who started it first, what’s the point?) the Liberation Tamil Tigers of Eelam (LTTE) morphed into a terrorist group, de facto assuming the voice of the Tamils in Sri Lanka. It demanded a separate autonomous state for Tamils, and was headed by “Col” Velupillai Prabhakaran, who orchestrated a series of daring attacks ad assasinations on political leaders: the Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi (in 1991) and the Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa (in 1993) lost their lives in brazen suicide missions by LTTE members.
Sri Lanka was torn by strife as a result of civil war for over 30 odd years. The army finally managed to rout out the LTTE, culminating in the death of its leader Prabhakaran. His entire family was wiped out in the final stages of the war. His younger son, daughter and wife were shot dead in the final days of the war, while his elder son, who headed the airforce of the LTTE (yes, they had an airforce) was killed in action. Thousands of innocent civilians were killed during the final stages of the war. The Sri Lanka president Mahinda Rajapaksa finally declared the end of civil war in 2009 and promised to rehabilate the thousands of Tamils displaced as a result of the war and integrate them into mainstream Sri Lankan society.
So there, you have the history.
It has been almost 4 years since the civil war ended in Sri Lanka. Now this is the tough part. I really don’t know what’s happening in Sri Lanka now. Are the Tamil civilians really being treated well? Those who had to live through the war that claimed their loved ones’ lives, are their lives returning back to “normalcy,” whatever that means? Has the Sri Lankan government started atleast partially fulfilling its promises that it made after the war ended? I don’t know, I really don’t.
But here’s what I do know for sure. Political parties in the state of Tamil Nadu, have seized the Eelam issue in the most shameful way and are leveraging it to attracting votes. A major regional party in Tamil Nadu, the DMK, walked out of the Central government, stating that the Center was not concerned about the plight of the Tamils in Sri Lanka. This, after the party stayed with the Center for over 10 years, throughout the duration of the last days of the civil war, and not raising a single objection about the strife going on there. It was transparent as to why the DMK walked out. The UPA government at the center is literally in shambles now, beset by allegations of corruption, favoritism and general lack of faith of the public in the government. Elections are not far away, and DMK realized it would not bode well to be associated with the UPA. As simple as that.
Protests were being held all over Tamil Nadu as the UNHRC resolution on Sri Lanka was passed last week, demanding that the word “genocide” be added to the resolution, while independent credible investigations are being called upon to investigate the alleged war crimes committed by the Sri Lankan army during the war. Graphic video footage and photographic evidence show that people were indeed massacred during the war, but the Sri Lankan government claims the evidence is doctored.
But I am more ashamed of myself rather than these political parties. I did know that a civil war was going on in Sri Lanka, that people were being killed, but I did not give much thought to it until a couple of months ago, when politicians, intellectuals and diplomats began to routinely appear on Indian news channels, debating the issue. When photographs showing Prabhakaran’s 12-year-old son well and alive in an army bunker were splashed in the front pages of newspapers, I, for a moment thought the earlier news of his death was false, as were the evidence of the killings of innocent civilans caught up in the war. But no, when I read the news, I came to know the photographs were taken moments before he was clinically shot dead, not in the crossfire, as earlier claimed by the Sri Lankan government. At that point, I couldn’t control my tears. I shut myself in the bathroom and cried. I cried for all the people caught up in wars around the world. I cried for the senselessness that accompanies the killing of a young boy at the hands of his captors. I cried for all the children who lost their lives, because that is the worst. Children should not die, they are much too innocent and pure. But they lose their lives every single day due to callousness, greed, or other some stupid reason. If we cannot guarantee a child’s life, his/her right to grow up and experience all the things that normal people experience, happiness, laughter, ambition, then what’s the point of the existence? When you are heartless enough to shoot a child point blank, you might as well turn around the gun and shoot yourself, because there is no point in living anymore in a future tainted by a child’s blood.