Tamil civilians left to fend for themselves
Muthuvel Karunanidhi and Rajiv Gandhi
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
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
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
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
is presently governed by the Congress Party,
headed by Gandhi's widow, Sonia and the LTTE
is a banned organisation in
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.