As the Tamils in Sri Lanka are facing one of their worst nightmare in the entire history of (several thousand years old) their civilization in North & East of Sri Lanka, all the political parties in Tamil Nadu – India cutting across party lines are conducting some form of a peaceful protest to extend their support to the Sri Lankan Tamils. People from different walks of life – students to lawyers, government employees to private businesses, political, religious leaders to film actors are rasing their voice to bring visibility to the sufferings of the Tamils to the national and International media. Yet, I feel that the “severity of this gruesome situation” is not being realized by many in other parts of India.
Tamils are living peacefully in more than 50 different countries including India. Nowhere in the world Tamils are under going a similar catastrophe as that faced in Sri Lanka. In India, Tamils have been elected to various positions including Presidents, Home minister, Health minister, Asst Defense minister and head of the army. Former presidents R. Venkatraman and Dr. Abdul Kalam are Tamils. Dr Abdul Kalam served India as president and principal scientific advisor. He was the backbone in the development of the Indian missile technology and the infamous Baharan Nuclear bomb test.
Right from the days of the freedom struggle of India, the contribution of Tamils towards India has been in parallel to any other community be it Keralites or Telugus or Biharis. Tamils have participated in both non-violent struggle under the leadership of Gandhi and the armed struggle under the leadership of Subhash Chandra Bose. Several thousand Tamil men and woman served in the Indian National Army and fought side by side with Bengalis and Rajputs against the mighty British Empire. Several Tamil men and women gave their life to achieve India’s freedom. One can’t brush aside easily their contributions and sacrifices towards free India.
Several Indian Tamil soldiers have perished in the recent Kargil war (India fought Kashmir/Afghan fighters supported and backed by the Pakistani military). It shows to the world their valor and great determination towards protecting the “sovereignty and territorial integrity” of the India.
At present, every morning when we read and hear about the news of our Tamil brothers and sisters killed by the Sri Lankan army in the so called “slow Genocide”. As a Tamil each and every one of us are under going severe mental pain. Several sleepless nights have passed with horrifying dreams. More than 10 Indian Tamils had given their life by self-immolation to highlight and seek attention from the Indian government to take meaningful steps to solve the Tamil national question in Sri Lanka. None of them had any direct relation with Sri Lankan Tamils or Tamil Tigers. They did this “unthinkable act” spontaneously to show their affection towards Tamil brothers who are living just 30 miles away from the Tamil Nadu coast.
Each of these 10 Indians represent several political parties, different age groups and social backgrounds. Some of them are educated and some are not. They took conscious decision of supporting the freedom struggle of their brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka. They could have taken other route of destroying public property or hurting political leaders. But they took one of the toughest decision of “Lighting themselves” to shed some light on the suffering of Sri Lankan Tamils. It is regrettable to see their sacrifices not being given fair attention and importance by my fellow Indians in Hyderabad, Mumbai, Delhi or else where in India. These 10 gentlemen are Indian citizens. For the sake of their citizenship, fellow Indians should wake up from their sleep and participate and strengthen the protests of the Indian Tamils. This would create a sense of unity and also give some solace to the protesting Tamils of India.
Few years back my next door neighbor (An American) knocked my door with warm smile and explained to me about the Christian religion. He knew that I am a practicing Hindu. I have allowed him to talk further without commenting on his views. On several subsequent visits he explained to me about the various chapters of the Bible. One day he gave me a pamphlet of “Stories of Jesus” and asked me to read. The following week, he asked me about the Stories. I replied that the stories had good concepts and philosophies. Immediately he asked me if I want to convert to Christianity.
I gave him the following reply:
My mother may be uneducated, poor and old. My next door neighbour may be a good looking, well educated and rich woman. However, I still love my mother and would like to be her son. I cannot transform into the son of the neighbour, whatever be the benefits and gains.
Similarly, even though we Indian Tamils love the indepence of the new state in Sri Lanka in the name of Eelam, we cannot seperate ourselves from India and annex ourselves to the new state. Our commitment and support to India goes like son to mother relationship. We may have some differences, but our bond towards India would never change what ever be the situation.
No one on this earth can question the Tamils integrity and sacrifices towards India.
Sri Lankan Tamils are our brothers. When they are suffering from the brutal assault of the Sri Lankan army as Tamils we are under going severe pain. We have undergone similar pain when innocent civilians were affected in the Godhra riots, Gujarat earth quake or Assam bomb blast. Tamil business’s and community organizations collected several million rupees for the relief efforts of those affected regions. We thought and believed they were our brothers too.
However, I notice that the Indian administration is finding reasons to abbet the Sri Lankan governments effort to eliminate Tamils from Sri Lanka. The accusations made by the Sri Lankan government regarding the rebels are easily accepted without any validations or reality checks. The voices of the suffering civilians are not being reported in major media and are brushed aside as unverified news. The sentiments of 70 million Tamil Indians are branded as regional opinions. The Indian administration is funding Sri Lanka and putting the Tamil Indians into mental agony.
In the epic Mahabaratham, Karnan although was a brother of the Pandavas had to side with Gauravas and fight his own brothers to fulfill his commitment towards friendship. Indian Tamils are in a similar situation today. Even though we know that India is commiting a blunder, we are expressing our dissent only through peacefull means because we are committed to our bond with India.
It is unfair and unjust to hurt the feeling of Indian Tamils further. The reasons quoted by our administration – Rajivs death or extremism have all been well debated and answered. We need to move forward and think about ways to solve the crisis of Sri Lanka once and for all through viable political settlement. India should nurture the ethnic bonding between the Indian and Sri Lankan Tamils to its advantage. India should accept the aspirations of the Sri Lankan Tamils for independence and extend their support to their struggle.
Above all my Indian brothers should respect the feelings of fellow Indian Tamils and extend their sympathy and support to them. This is applicable to every individual Indian citizen. Every Indian should participate in the protests and demonstrations organized towards the Tamil cause and strengthen the bonding within India and with the Sri Lankan Tamils.
After all sovereignty is “for the people and by the people”. If the Tamils of Sri Lanka wanted one, No one can stop them from realizing their dream.
Written by Kandhan
An engineer by profession, Kandhan writes to promote progressive politics in India.