( April 30, 2012, Colombo) India’s problems are many though it hides behind a claim that it is a country united in diversity. As a sovereign country, it is not our concern how India runs its country or treats its people. Naturally, we expect India to respect Sri Lanka’s sovereign status as well. Nevertheless, the issue of Tamil Nadu wanting to separate and India promoting Tamil Eelaam in Sri Lanka has turned into triangular battle for which India stands accountable. The similarities in the Sikh struggle for a Khalistan and Tamil Nadu’s own quest for separatism is evident while India continues to deny the Sikhs, India’s gameplan for Tamil Nadu’s quest was to transport the separatist struggle to Sri Lanka and pretend to be friends of the Tamils of Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka. It is now time Tamils in both Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka open their eyes and realize that India has been making fools of Tamil Nadu and Sri Lankan Tamils for over half a century.
|Leader of the opposition and right-wing Hindu party Bharatiya Janata Party member Sushma Swaraj leaves with delegation members at the end of a news conference in Colombo April 21,2012. - Image REUTERS|
Of the 30m global Sikhs 19m of them live in India but the Sikhs number just 2% of India’s population. Of the 72m global Tamils, 65m live in Tamil but number just 5% of India’s population. In Sri Lanka, Tamils were 2.4m of the total 20m but with 1m now living overseas it is believed that the Tamil population in Sri Lanka is likely to be less than 1.5m.
While acknowledging the domino effect of colonial divide and rule policies accounting for the dissent that has prevailed in both India and Sri Lanka. Ideas for “separatism” were given birth by colonial rulers combined with their indoctrination through Christian and Catholic missionaries. This is how they first created the boundaries amongst people thus the idea that Muslims and Hindus must live in 2 distinct nation states. Instilling such thought processes was meant to encourage other ethnicities to demand their rights too. What also needs to be reiterated that politicians on both sides of the spectrum have without solving the divides when they could, used them to advance their own political power bases misguiding and manipulating the masses to suit their programs.
As with Sri Lanka the colonial education and prominence to English and Catholic education meant indigenous language and religion were given less or no prominence. At independence, Hindi became the exclusive language with Punjabi being abandoned. During colonial rule, Sikhs formed 14% of Punjab’s population alongside Muslims and Hindus and partition of land in 1943. The Sikhs even approached the British like the Tamil leaders to ask for a separate state. But at independence in 1947, 2 countries were created – India and Pakistan thus dividing the Sikh population leading to a lot of bloodshed thought to be over 500,000 lives. 12m moved out of west Punjab while the Muslims in east Punjab migrated to Pakistan. The partitioning made Sikhs loose much fertile land and over 140 shrines. Sikhs were to form the majority in the new Indian Punjab.
The Tamils of Sri Lanka comprise those from Kerala, Karnataka, Andra Pradesh while the South Indians brought to work on the plantations during the British empire were later referred to as Estate Tamils. Despite, the Tamils being less than 700,000 in total they were provided the best of American and British missionary English education and absorbed into the state apparatus enjoying higher privileges than the majority Sinhalese. With Independence and unitary nature of the constitution the Tamil political parties were aware that decades of privileges unfairly enjoyed by them would be questioned and the best way to camouflage the past and protect their present and future was to decry their fate on the “ethnic” platform. The ethnic dimension was planned immediately after the dawn of independence and in many ways was converged with Tamil Nadu’s own dissatisfaction with Hindi dominated India. It suited Tamil Nadu, Sri Lankan Tamil politicians and even the Indian Government to launch a separatist movement for a sovereign Eelaam in Sri Lanka which was plotted by the Indira Gandhi government helping arm, train and financialy support several Tamil rebels movements in Sri Lanka with LTTE emerging the most ruthless having eliminated the other Tamil movements.
The Sikh demand for a separate Sikh state (Khalistan) were made through the years 1946, 1958, 1972, 1984 with Akali Dal agitating against the Indian Government. The momentum soon spread amongst Sikhs. Sovereign Khalistan, a movement first announced in London with Khalistani flag raised in Birmingham in late 1970’s. London is also the LTTE’s international head quarters.
Both the Sikh and Tamil Diaspora have invested heavily upon a sovereign state. The momentum helped by 2 key incidents – the storming of the Golden Temple in 1984 and the 1983 riots in Sri Lanka. While the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards as a revenge for the Golden Temple incident, India went on to experience a wave of anti-Sikh riots throughout India. Again the similarities were that certain political patronage was involved in the incidents that took place against ordinary civilians in both India and Sri Lanka. India seems to have forgotten the tens of thousands that India killed for assassinating Indira Gandhi. What both events created was a notion that the ONLY requirement was a separate state and no Sikh and no Tamil were expected to think outside of this realm. Thus both Sikhs and Tamils living abroad started to roll the propaganda and fundraising efforts. In the case of Tamil Eelaam it is simply to be a “day dream” and India’s concerns for Tamils is nothing but a pretence to delay but deny the inevitable creation of Eelaam.
It suited India to have Eelaam insurgency launched in Sri Lanka while it took care of the Sikh insurgency in India. Both ironically launched in the 1980s. Both with militant groups and backed by a camouflage using the “ethnic” label which has helped mobilize people by force or by virtue of having no other choice.
The Sikh nationalist struggle turned into an armed struggle after Bhinddranwale became leader in the 1980s after taking refuge in the Golden Temple to avoid arrest. Tamil Eelaam struggle too was turned into an armed struggle by Velupillai Prabakaran usurping all control from the Tamil political realm which had to save face by pretending to be its mouthpiece internationally and locally.
Just as India played a hand in militarizing the Eelaam struggle in Sri Lanka by training numerous Sri Lankan Tamil groups, Indira Gandhi to split the Akali Dal political party helping to create Bhindranwale. Bhindranwale however was eliminated in June 1984 when Indira Gandhi ordered the army to storm the Golden Temple along with 37 other Sikh religious shrines. Nevertheless a cornered Prabakaran in 1987 was forced by India to be released uncaptured. Eventually, 2 Sikh bodyguards assassinated Indira Gandhi while her son Rajiv was assassinated by the LTTE in Tamil Nadu.
The storming of the Golden Temple was enough reason for the Sikh Diaspora to go on a diplomatic offensive and seek financial support and it also opened doors for other foreign elements to fuel the situation further. In Sri Lanka the situation was no different which begs to question whether a foreign hand could have been involved in the 1983 riots that spurred the Tamil Diaspora into action globally. Both the Sikh militants and the LTTE were soon to gain training for its cadres, able to procure arms legally and illegally and its “officials” gaining VIP status by foreign governments.
In 1946 the Shiromani Akali Dal passed a resolution claiming a “Sikh homeland” in Punjab under the leadership of the Akali Dal. In Sri Lanka, the Vaddukoddai Resolution was passed on similar grounds though LTTE Leader Prabakaran twisted aspects of this vision to suit only his needs which in reality has distanced any prospects of forming an Eelaam in Sri Lanka thus raising the question of whether LTTE was responsible for wasting 30 years and ruining prospects of a Tamil Eelaam.
Both Sikh and Tamil Diaspora currently lobbying overseas though pretending to pursue a “homeland” quest certainly have their differences which have at times turned violent. Yet for propaganda purposes both Sikhs and Tamils have managed to bury their differences and participate in demonstrations overseas calling for a separate homeland.
LTTE wiped out all other Tamil militants to call itself “sole representative” and made Tamil politicians fear to even speak against them.
Sikhs and Tamils have similar methods in collecting monies to fund their militant movements. In fact LTTE has links with both Khalistani Sikhs and Indian Maoists.
It is everyone’s question how a banned terrorist movement has been able to run 40 offices in the very countries that have banned it and openly canvass and lobby their cause with foreign MPs even attending these events and not shy to even bring up their demands on the floor of their parliaments! Some of these charities though banned seem to operate quite freely under other names with money transferred with ease. It is beguiling to even think how foreign governments would allow their own citizens to be fleeced by these LTTE charities!
India is questioning and continues to question Sri Lanka on its treatment of Tamils. When India stormed the Golden Temple and 37other Sikh shrines in 1984 with orders given to the Indian military to “remove terrorists, criminals and their weapons” leaving thousands of women and children among those “removed” and the shrines severely damaged including priceless manuscripts and literature. In Sri Lanka going back prior to the 1983 riots the burning of the Jaffna library was a UNP instrumental incident just like the 1983 riots where led by UNP goons though the involvement of Indian intelligence is not ruled out.
What is interesting is how the Sikh and Tamil Diaspora are rigorously pursuing a “separate sovereign homeland” to which they are unlikely to even come and reside in. So what is the really gameplan unless it they are benefitting commercially and personally from running a remote controlled movement for separatism from overseas. In the case of the Tamil Diaspora while they have been making over USD300m none of that money ever went towards uplifting a single life of a poor Tamil, improving infrastructure or basic needs when they could have easily done so as LTTE their hero was running a defacto state of their own till 2009.
Like the TNA and the LTTE, the Akali Dal exploited the contradictions and the problems that prevailed by turning them into communal and giving the spin to make every issue appear to be communally and ethnically inclined as it would favor their survival.
Just as the TNA and Tamil Diaspora continue to promote a separate state, the Akali Dal presented its proposal to the New Delhi Government – A. devolution of powers with a federal structure. B. transfer of Chandigarh to Punjab and Punjabi speaking areas to Punjab C.allocation of river waters, farm product prices, central and provincial taxation and financial powers, quota for Sikh recruitment to the armies. D. Indian gurudwaras to be managed by an elected body of Sikhs, sacred city status for Amritsar, broadcast of scriptures from the Golden Temple. The TNA are now lobbying for devolution, federal structure, land and police powers …. We know where the trend is going.
The Indian response to these demands were to use one of manipulation to gain Congress wins in the Punjab. Ironically, it was Rajiv Gandhi who signed the “Punjab Accord” just as he forced Sri Lanka to sign the “Indo-Peace Accord” in 1987 also forcing Sri Lanka to change its constitution to create the provincial council system by adding a 13th amendment. In both cases, the militancy took over. The Akali state government was dismissed in 1987 on the grounds it was “secessionist” and we can recall how President Premadasa had to annul the North Provincial Council when its first head Vartharaja Perumal declared a unilateral Eelaam state even printing letterheads to that effect.
What is extremely important to note is that after 1983 there has been no single attack upon Tamils despite over 200 dastardly and brutal attempts of killings by the LTTE. However, the Indian Government continued to unleash terror on Punjab with another attack on the Golden Temple just 4 years after the first attack in 1984 with over 15000 Sikhs being killed.
Just as the LTTE was running a parallel government through the gun, the Akali Dal did the same. To be also noted is that whilst the Akali Dal entered democratic framework contesting elections, the LTTE preferred to use the TNA politicians to push for their demands on the grounds that most of the TNA politicians belonged to the high caste educated elite and since caste factor was a major issue amongst the Tamil people.
However unlike the Sikhs whose grievance center around the undue prominence given to Hindu communities and to Hindi’s in particular where they claim there is disproportionate recruiting for Hindus/Hindi in civil, military, government, with laws monopolized the Tamils of Sri Lanka have had no solid reasons to decry any discrimination for despite being only a small percentage of the total population, Tamil has been made an official language, its ethnicity is denoted on the country’s national flag, all government documents, circulars are in Sinhalese and Tamils, national events are covered in both Sinhalese and Tamil. Tamils live amongst the Sinhalese than they do amongst their own people which hardly promotes and suggests and form of discrimination.
However, we know that Tamil Nadu on the other than is very much disheartened just as the Sikhs about the Hindis running the entire country and it is this anger and resentment that spurred the Sikh independence struggle as well as the Tamil Eelaam struggle though it was very artfully transported to Sri Lanka to delay the quest starting off in India. Who can deny that a Tamil homeland has to ideally be located in the place where the most concentrated population of Tamils exist? Tamil Nadu is that place with over 65m Tamils… how can there be a Tamil homeland in Sri Lanka where there is hardly 1.5m Tamils? It is practically insane and ludicrous to even suggest such and it is obvious that the Eelaam quest in Sri Lanka is just a ruse to deter and defer the Tamil Nadu quest from being launched.
Alongside the Sikhs the Muslims of India too face issues. One such being the demolition of the Babri Masjid Mosque in Ayodya in 1980.
About 1m of Sikhs and Tamils live abroad. This is certainly a large proportion. Most Sikhs live in an extended family, marriage partners are chosen across continents, dowry is a must as in Tamil marriages. Yet, the Diaspora of both Sikh and Tamils are anything but united. Divisions often are covered up but clearly visible and many instances have led to even death and violence even in nations where the rule of law is upheld. Amongst their own especially the Tamil Diaspora there is enormous wrangling all related to caste factors now emerging as seen in life amongst Tamils post-LTTE defeat. The wave of rapes, crimes, robberies and blackmails are all due to caste differences amongst the Tamils and these need to be continuously highlighted for the Tamils had cleverly concealed their own differences by using the Sinhalese as a scapegoat.
Both Sikhs and Tamils are making their demands clear overseas as well – afterall they have brought many mediocre foreign politicians into their parliaments as a result of their vote. So payback is naturally a must. In the UK, wearing the turban was waved when riding motorbikes. Similar cases regarding the turban has prevailed throughout US, Canada and the UK. Amongst the Tamils, their lobbying has generally stuck to “discrimination” tag enabling them status amongst foreign emissaries and representatives and the ability to influence organizations they set up to continue to run illicit campaigns that leave a significant portion into their own accounts.
What is clear is that a handful of self-centered individuals have been taking “dreams” and trying to turn them in to reality not so much for any deep concern for the rights and dignity of their own people but such “homeland” calls have benefitted these people personally, commercially and politically giving them more status than they could aspire to achieve without such a quest.
These quests have been facilitated by the UN whose recognition of “self-determination” bids have only served to make the situation tense and countries unstable. This is possibly a ploy amongst those that rule the UN in order to control countries that suffer from such “self-determination” bids.
Will peace prevail just because a “homeland” is created and a turban is worn or “eelaam” is created? Will Tamils living amongst the Sinhalese all leave and reside in this Eelaam for in creating a separate Eelaam no Tamils have any right to live amongst the other ethnicities. But how many of these Tamils now residing happily in the South of Sri Lanka are willing to even consider living amongst their own when already bickerings, violence, rape and blackmail are taking place primarily due to the caste factor which Tamils are making great efforts to hide?
Dreams are nice but political dreams are nothing short of an utopia and Tamils in Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka need to sooner or later realize this and to finally accept that India has been and will continue to fool them pretending to pressurize the Sri Lankan Governments to take seriously the Tamil “aspirations” but in reality India is only pursuing its own agenda and it has nothing to do with Tamils.