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 Politics  

Tamil civilians left to fend for themselves

Muthuvel Karunanidhi and Rajiv Gandhi

By Dashrath 

While the war seems to be ending according to the government, in the north, the people who are in LTTE controlled areas are even more vulnerable to more physical harm.

The international community was expected to step in especially by the Tamils. The protest wave in Tamil Nadu late last year and agitations in other parts of the world came as a boon to the people in the north and gave a glimpse of hope that the war could be brought to an end.

The Tamil Nadu factor played a significant part in the Sri Lankan issue for a brief period. But it could not be sustained due to divisions among the Tamil Nadu politicians themselves.

The requests by the Tamil Nadu government and other political parties for an immediate ceasefire in Sri Lanka, went unheeded. The pressure on the central government of India to intervene into the Sri Lankan issue is yet to yield results.

The confusion here is that, many of the politicians while expressing their support to the people, made it clear that they were not in anyway supportive of the Tigers.

People in the war zone

The people in the war zone are not separated from the Tigers. Both the LTTE and the people are cornered in a small area of land. Therefore, any attacks on the LTTE would definitely harm civilians.  Tamil Nadu was concerned about the plight of the civilians.

The agitations in Tamil Nadu have still not stopped. The latest incident was the attack on Janatha Party President Subramanian Swamy at a courtroom last Tuesday. Swamy, an anti-LTTEer was assaulted by a group of lawyers.

Likewise, there had been several cases of  molestation in Tamil Nadu against the failure of the central government to intervene in the Sri Lankan issue in order to save the people.

At least four people had committed suicide in Tamil Nadu during the past couple of months, calling on the centre to intervene to save the Tamil civilians.

It is more than four months since the protest wave in Tamil Nadu started. The politicians who triggered the wave - the DMK, CPI, CPI (M), MDMK and the others are relatively quiet at the moment.

Threat to withdraw support

The DMK, an ally of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA), led by the current Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Muthuvel Karunanidhi had on two occasions threatened the Central government that it would withdraw its support from the centre if it failed to heed their requests to save the Tamils in the north.

However, the threats ended up as a damp squib and Karunanidhi continues to be the Chief Minister of the state.

Despite intense agitation, the centre remained calm and composed and took its own time in sending its representatives to Sri Lanka. That too did not result in any change in the stance of the government. On the contrary it strengthened the government.

When Indian Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee came to the country, the hope for a truce was minimal.

There were several reasons for this. The main factor was the military successes that the government was reaping in the northern battlefronts. The government would not want a ceasefire to spoil all the successes the military had achieved within the last three years.

Commitment to defeat terrorism

The other reason was that the Indian government's commitment to defeat terrorism was also in line with the position held by Sri Lanka.

The protest wave in Tamil Nadu started at the wrong time as well. There were no agitations in the state when the security forces cleared the east. It only started when the military began its operations to capture Killinochchi and Mullaithivu.

The LTTE had made its mark in India by killing former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. This one act had earned the hatred of several politicians towards the LTTE, including that of AIADMK General Secretary Jayalalitha Jeyaram.

India is presently governed by the Congress Party, headed by Gandhi's widow, Sonia and the LTTE is a banned organisation in India. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that the central government would have any soft corner for the LTTE. It would definitely want the LTTE wiped out from the face of this earth.

At the last 'Heroes' Day' speech delivered by LTTE Supremo, Velupillai Pirapaharan, he had stated that they (LTTE) wished to renew its relationship with India and that the organisation was no enemy to any country.

However, the fact is that no one took any notice of Pirapaharan's request. It was only considered as the last resort of the organisation, which was on the brink of defeat.

Agitations in other countries also failed to protect the lives of civilians trapped in the Wanni. The reason for this was that these agitations were more in support of the Tigers rather than the people.

The concerns over the civilians within the LTTE controlled areas arose following the capture of Mannar.

Not allowed to come out

The people within the LTTE areas were ordered to go further into their territory and were not allowed to come out. As the military continued to capture each Tiger stronghold, the civilians gradually moved from place to place. People in Killinochchi did not feel the full effect of the war till mid to late last year. The military intensified its attacks on the LTTE's de-facto capital and the LTTE continued to hold civilians in the areas controlled by them despite requests by the government and human rights organisations.

The government ordered all humanitarian agencies to move out of the Wanni and relocate themselves in Vavuniya, owing to security concerns. Thus, the civilians were once again affected when the aid workers left the area. Since then, they have been exposed to several dangers from within and outside.

It was obvious to the whole world that the LTTE was using civilians as human shields. Today hundreds of thousands of people have accumulated in a small area in the Mullaithivu District.

Now  people have begun to come out in the thousands, risking artillery, air attacks and the LTTE through the jungles.

Several hundreds killed

Several hundreds of people were reportedly killed during the year due to the fighting.

The Tigers denied attacking civilians and blamed the military while the military blamed it on the Tigers.

Today, one feels that the situation could have been different, if the LTTE had let the civilians go when the Tigers lost Mannar. So many civilian casualties would not have occurred if the people had been allowed to go to safer areas.

The wave in Tamil Nadu too benefited the LTTE in carrying out its propaganda against the government forces. Tamil Nadu did not press the LTTE to release the civilians. This could also be one of the reasons for the failure of these agitations.

The reality today is that the war is almost over. But, hundreds and thousands are still trapped in areas controlled by the LTTE with no way out.

The role of the international community was not effective in bringing about at least a temporary ceasefire for the people to move to safer grounds.

On the other hand, it will be interesting to see a future political environment in the north sans the LTTE. For more than 30 years, the southern politics revolved round the ethnic question and the LTTE, which claimed that it was the sole representative of the Tamil people.

The military and the government claim that the Tigers will be wiped out completely very soon. LTTE Political Head, B. Nadesan is sending comments to Tamilnet and other pro-Tiger websites from an unknown location, stating that the LTTE is still strong and that they would recapture the areas they lost.

Only time will tell as to what awaits those in the north and the rest of the country. Until then, the people will have to accept what comes their way.

 


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