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India Sri Lanka World

Meeting a US Congressman for the Sri Lanka crisis

Written by Sunderapandyan.

Community cheer leader, leisure sportsman, web developer & innovator – Sunderapandyan is hard to pin down. He reports about critical South Asian issues to the world.

Well finally I have met a US Congressman – I mean a personal meeting with a politician for the first time in my life. Living in the relatively remote Midwest region of USA with a very small Indian community, the inaction of the Indian government over the human sufferings in Sri Lanka has been a factor of frustration for quite some time now, not just for me but for quite a few family friends here.

Watching the human suffering and the brutality of the Sri Lankan forces for several weeks has finally thrust me to swing into action. Consultation with friends lead us to conclude that meeting the district Congressman and presenting the evidences for human rights violations would be the most logical step.

After launching a swift online signature campaign with area residents of Indian origin, we started working with the Congressman’s office to get an appointment. We were hoping to have a personal meeting at the Congressman’s office so that we can show the videos and images that have bothered us much. However the Scheduler/Office Manager of the Congressman informed me that the Congressman is busy until a month or so and asked if I would be interested in meeting him at an event in two days. I was aware that the US Senate foreign relations committee is planning to discuss the Sri Lanka crisis in a week and thought the timing would be perfect.

With a decent number of signatures by several area Indians (Not just Tamils, but the entire Indian community signed it displaying a sign of solidarity) and the disturbing videos and images burned to a CD, six of us were all set to meet the Congressman.

We were quite apprehensive about discussing the issue openly since the Tamil rebels are still proscribed in the USA. We all agreed that we will not make any references to the rebels in our discussion but focus on the excesses committed by the Sri Lankan forces.

The meeting was to take place at the Health Care field hearing scheduled at the downtown church. We arrived early and were waiting for the District Director & Staff Agent who was supposed to brief us about the standard procedures of meeting the Congressman and facilitate the meeting.

The Staff Agent arrived and was indeed very helpful and appreciated us for bringing the issue to the Congressman’s attention. He also appreciated us for having run the signature campaign. After listening to the information we provided, the Staff Agent collected the file folder with the signed petition and the CD’s and informed us that we will be able to meet the Congressman prior or after the event. He also advised us to forward the petition and evidences to other committee members, especially members on the foreign relations committee.

The Congressman arrived and was greeted by few public that were waiting to meet him just like us. The Congressman engaged in a long conversation with a lady who appeared to be in despair due to a loss of a family member. The Congressman was very polite and listened to her long story and hugged her to offer some solace. We knew then that we will have to sit through the meeting and will be able to meet the congressman only at the end of the event. Some of my friends decided to drive home and come back later, while three of us decided to stay.

We found the Health Care field hearing very informative. I was very impressed at the way the hearing was organized. I started comparing the meeting with that of meetings involving Indians. Be it in India or the USA a meeting involving similar crowd would have been really noisy and full of confusion and chaos. I think we have to accept that confusion and chaos have become part of the Indian culture.

Americans sure have mastered the art of organizing events. Simple process’s put in place by the organizers made the event progress in a smooth fashion. The Congressman was very polite and had a fair sense of humor and handled the questions well. A Native Indian member who was full of humor asked the Congressman if he needed a job, referring to the acute shortage of doctors and paramedics in his clinic operating in the nearby Native Indian reservation. The Congressman also did not hesitate to ask for assistance from the folks in the crowd when he was not sure of some statistics.

Finally the meeting got over and we got the opportunity to talk to the Congressman. When I introduced myself and my friends, I mentioned that our roots are in India and we wanted to highlight the crisis in the South Asian nation of Sri Lanka. The congressman immediately said “I have a Tamil Tiger in my office”. Looking at our blank reaction, he continued “That was a Joke…”. He was making a reference to a Sri Lankan Tamil who works in his office. The Congressman seemed to be very knowledgeable about the happenings in Sri Lanka (obviously).

We informed about the evidences we have compiled and requested the Congressman to take up the issue appropriately and help bring justice to the people. The Congressman said before ending the conversation that he would like to one day visit Sri Lanka and have a vacation there.

That day may be too far away with the approach taken by most involved parties that have a stake in the region.

We all left home with a sense of relief that we have done the right thing. We do not know if the Congressman will be able to stop the terror faced by the people in the war zone, but we are happy based on what is mentioned in Bagavath Geethai – “Do your duty, Do not expect returns”.