Cajoling with a hidden cudgel

Tamil Nadu, the southern most State of India is heating up once again with sentiments against Sri Lankan leaders in respect of alleged human rights violations by the Sri Lankan security forces during the war against the LTTE. The sentiments of the people of the State are normally whipped up by their politicians on the eve of national or State elections, but this time it is an exception. There is no election in the offing.

Soon after her election as the Chief Minister of the State on May 13 Jayalalithaa Jeyaram had roared against President Mahinda Rajapaksa and had called on the Indian government to take measures against the Sri Lankan president for alleged war crimes. This seemed as a mere pacification of her constituency that had overwhelmingly supported her to bag a landslide victory at the State Assembly elections.

However, this exceptionally timed roar by the new Chief Minister was followed by another serious statement, the joint communiqué issued at the end of the visit by the Sri Lankan External Affairs Minister Professor GL Peiris on May 17 which still remains contentious in the political circle in Sri Lanka. Terming this joint statement as one “strongly worded” the AFP had said “India broke with past practice and called on Sri Lanka to investigate allegations of human rights abuses during the island’s civil war, upping pressure on President Mahinda Rajapaksa.”

Interestingly, one month after those incidents Tamil Nadu leaders have taken another serious step against Sri Lankan government while a defence related high level delegation from India was expected in the island.  Tamil Nadu State Assembly on Wednesday adopted a resolution calling for the “imposition of economic sanctions on Sri Lanka until all Tamils now staying in camps in Sri Lanka are rehabilitated in their own land and given an opportunity to lead a life of dignity with rights equal to those of the Sinhalese.”

Also on Wednesday Jayalalithaa in a statement in the Assembly appealed to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to approach the Sri Lankan government and obtain the release of four Tamil Nadu fishermen in Sri Lankan police custody. The fishermen had been caught in inclement weather and heavy winds on June 2 and reached the coast of Nainatheevu in Sri Lanka. However, deviating from her hostile attitude the Chief Minister said that the State government would be grateful if they were released immediately as a gesture of goodwill by Sri Lanka.

Two days later, on Friday (yesterday) India’s National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon and Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar arrived in Colombo with Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao for high level talks with the Sri Lankan leaders. Meanwhile, pointing to the mood of the State, Canada Based veteran Tamil journalist DBS Jeyaraj reported in his website on Thursday  that an elaborate structure called “Mullivaaikkaal Martyrs Memorial” is to be constructed in the Thanjaavoor district of Tamil Nadu state in India. P. Nedumaran who is famous for his anti- Sri Lankan attitudes is said to be behind the project.The website stated that the monument will be dedicated to the memory of all Tamils -both civilian and militant-killed in Mullivaaikkal at the final phase of war and will be modelled on the lines of the famous “Periya Kovil” (great temple) built by the Chola emperor Raja Rajan in Thanjaavoor.

To the fury of the Sri Lankan leaders the sculptures of the monument will denote scenes like the alleged massacre at Mullivaaikkaal and confining of civilians behind barbed wire detention camps.

These pressures are brought on Sri Lanka by its northern neighbors while calls for an international investigation on the alleged war crimes are mounting in the West following the UN Secretary General’s three member experts panel presented its report to the UNSG. It is only against this backdrop Indian leaders have visited the island reportedly with a bunch of issues that were in the joint communiqué issued last month.

The joint statement included three kinds of issues, namely pressurizing issues, Indian economic interests and issues of common interest such as the solution to the ethnic problem in Sri Lanka. One may argue that India is attempting to use the pressurizing issues such as the alleged violation of human rights in a bid to gain the economic interests. However, in an ethical point of view India cannot do this since it was with the support of the India that the security forces launched their operations against the LTTE.

On her part Jayalalithaa who is lamenting about human rights in Sri Lanka too said that “some civilian casualties are inevitable during wars” at a time when the whole State was fermenting against the war against the LTTE and last year she said that she did not condemn the annihilation of the LTTE in war. She seems to be attempting to divert the attention of the State from its economic woes.  

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