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Tamil Nadu being forced to go the Eelam way? -- III
Ignoring Nov 1 'ultimatum' by TN politicos to stop ‘atrocities’ by Colombo or face en-masse resignation will force important Union ministers, including P Chidambaram, and all MPs from the state to quit. If it happens, UPA government might fall
THE PRECARIOUSLY balanced Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition government at New Delhi is in trouble. It is facing yet another, what Indian palmists and astrologists term as, ’gandam’ (Armageddon) on Nov 1. What is more, the tactic for winning majority vote by hook or by crook – buying fence-sitter members of Parliament (MP) who were ’available’ for a price, making a defector out of the speaker, doing wholesale ’deals’ with willing parties or breaking up parties – adopted on July 22, is out of question.

An ’all-party’ meet in Chennai on Oct 14, has given a fortnights’ ultimatum to the Centre. All MPs representing Tamil Nadu would resign en masse if New Delhi does not stop ’betraying’ Tamils by then. The TN government wanted the Centre to ensure that a ceasefire is declared in Sri Lanka by Nov 1. Convened by chief minister M Karunanidhi, eight parties from the alliance that rule in both state and Central level expressed outrage at the Centre’s policies on the Sri Lankan Tamils’ (Eelam) issue.

The meet was preceded by a frantic appeal to all political parties – almost all of them ’Dravidian’ parties, seeking equality with the dominant sections of India – to sink their differences and present a United Front to the Centre by attending the meeting. It was by none other than Tamil Nadu Congress Committee president KV Thangkabalu. He was attempting to erase the long-standing distrust among Tamil people that the Congress was way behind other ’Dravidian’ parties in espousing the cause of Tamils.

The next day, newly elected Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi announced that she had already sent a post-dated resignation letter to the CM. True, she is a novice in TN politics and can easily be mistaken for a Kollywood (Tamil filmdom) starlet. Nevertheless, her symbolic gesture cannot be taken lightly. Kanimozhi’s resignation letter was handed over to her own father, the octogenarian CM and supremo of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK). She is being groomed to counter the ’fan following’ enjoyed by Jayalalitha, an erstwhile Kollywood siren heading All India Anna DMK (AIADMK) that leads the formidable opposition front.

Although AIADMK and two other non-DMK outfits in her camp did not attend the meet, they are known to be even more hostile to the Sri Lankan administration, perpetrating ’atrocities’ on Eelam Tamils. With Jayalalitha reversing her antagonistic stand against Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and its chief, Prabhakaran, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has no option but to join the fray. It owes its minuscule presence in the state to her.

Responding to the united voice of MPs, the prime minister stated in a Press conference, “the situation in Sri Lanka remains a cause of serious concern for India. We are concerned over escalating hostilities, losses suffered by civilians and increasing number of displaced persons”. In the event of Singh stopping his ‘action’ with such protest noises, ignoring the ’ultimatum’ or coming down on Tamil politicos, he would be risking a complete chasm with the southern state. All Union ministers belonging to TN, including finance minister P Chidambaram, as well as all Rajya Sabha members of Congress will surely quit Parliament. They know very well that they would lose even their deposit if they dare fight any elections in TN without the backing of any of the Dravidian parties.

The UPA government can hardly afford being reduced to a minority after spending a fortune to win majority in July. If the Central ministers resign, it will be a repeat of 1965, when Jawaharlal Nehru’s high profile railway minister, Azahgesan and education minister C Subramaniam had to prove their ‘loyalty to Tamil land’.

In this context, a sample survey conducted by communications research outfit Cfore between Oct 6 and 11 demands analysis. The results published in the New Indian Express on Oct 12, clearly indicate that the all-party outcry is not just a political stunt.

More than a third of those polled, were categorical that TN politicos must snap relations with UPA, which persists with ’anti-Tamil’ policies. One-fourth the population wants TN leaders to assist politicos of Sri Lanka to arrive at a solution to the ethnic crisis. For every person who thought that TN leaders’ support to Eelam was similar to Pakistan helping Kashmir separatists, there were six who felt that the concern was absolutely logical and even their obligation.

While 51 per cent opined that the ban imposed on LTTE by New Delhi was a blunder and must be lifted at once, another 26 per cent said the ban does not matter anyway. Only 16 per cent said that lifting of ban is not necessary ’for now’.

For every Tamil buying New Delhi’s stated line that LTTE chief Prabhakaran is a murderer to be brought to India to stand trial in Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, there are four who say that if captured by Sri Lankans, he deserves asylum in India; another four felt that India must appeal to the UN to intervene on his behalf; yet another five said that India should send its troops to prevent that from happening.

Only 12 per cent of those polled think that LTTE is a terrorist organisation, 30 per cent admire them as freedom fighters and 36 per cent consider that LTTE is genuinely the sole representative of Eelam Tamils’ cause.

As many as 40 per cent would “gladly donate money and material to Tamil Eelam”, a fourth of them even advocating that the government levy a special aid to them. There are just 14 per cent who say that the Sri Lankan Tamil issue does not connect with them sufficiently, just like the plight of Palestinians or Georgians.

It must be noted that the survey was limited to urban areas, with Cfore interviewing residents of ten cities. The result could be even more startling if the rural folk, who value traditional bonds more strongly, was taken into account.

Oblivious to such a ground situation, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi, said to be close to Sonia Gandhi, stuck to the traditional stand: “Those who make demands about other sovereign countries should know that India’s sovereignty runs through the boundaries of India.” Another minor leader Manish Tewari, also exhibited anti-Tamil prejudice, saying, “The TN parties should understand that you are not dealing with a part of India but a sovereign nation.” That puts the clout enjoyed by Manmohan Singh in the party in perspective. Hours earlier, he had obliquely equated the situation in Eelam to the Bangladesh crisis, where his supremo’s mother-in-law had interfered in 1971. Singh had declared: “We always believe that situation in Srilanka does not call for military victory. It calls for negotiated political settlement, which respects the unity and the integrity of Sri Lanka and at the same time, respects the essential human rights of minorities, particularly Tamil minorities.”

It must be clear that hollow assurances of the Centre and those of Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa do not wash in TN anymore. Rajapaksa claims that his government is not at war with the Tamils. He has been proclaiming that if there is a war at all, that is against the LTTE. Colombo has repeatedly pointed out that LTTE is banned in India and its chief has been “convicted for murdering ‘our dear’ Rajiv Gandhi!” According to the president, Sri Lanka is pursuing a fair policy and the government would guarantee to the Tamil people of the north the same democratic rights, as enjoyed by people in other parts of the country.

The truth behind such lofty rhetoric was brought out last month by Army commander Lieutenant General Sarath Fonseka. He told the National Post of Canada, “This country belongs to the Sinhalese,” reiterating his statement in the Daily News earlier: “This country will be ruled by the Sinhalese community, which is the majority representing 74 percent of the population. . . I don’t think the people in the North and East are subjected to any injustice.” He warned minority communities not to “demand undue things.”

All in all, it does look like South Asia is poised to witness some big adventures, not very pleasant to endure. These may even dwarf the shock dealt by collapse of world economy and attract celebrity news correspondent to the fronts.
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