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Exclusive India National News Opinion Sri Lanka

Who invited Rajapaksa to Sanchi?

New Delhi, Sep 20 (): Sanchi, a tiny village in the state of Madhya Pradesh, India is home to several Buddhist monuments and considered a holy place for Buddhists. The Great Stupa at Sanchi considered as the oldest stone structure in India, is built over the relics of Buddha and originally commissioned by Emperor Ashoka, the Great in the 3rd century BCE.

Emperor Ashoka, who was initially taken to conquests, turned to Buddhism post Kalinga war. He made Buddhism his state religion and made many serious efforts to propagate it all over the the world. His twin children–son Mahindra and daughter Sanghamitra, were the ones who established Buddhism in Ceylon-now, Sri Lanka.

Against this backdrop, the Madhya Pradesh government is celebrating 2600 years of Buddha’s enlightenment and as a special invitee, the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has been accorded a grand invite to participate in the celebrations at Sanchi on September 21 where he is to lay the foundation stone for the International Centre of Buddhist Studies.

Dubbed a ‘war criminal’, Rajapaksa put to death tens of thousands of innocent Tamils during the decades’-old ethnic war in Sri Lanka in 2009 and the genocidal man behind the horrendous war crimes heaped on innocent Tamil civilians has been accorded a special guest status in India. His visit to Sanchi has been widely condemned by the political parties of Tamil Nadu.

Protesting the invitation of Mahinda Rajapaksa, MDMK chief Vaiko, who has always been a vociferous supporter of Eelam Tamils  announced and  made  a trip to Sanchi to hold a black flag demonstration against the Sri Lankan President. Mr. Vaiko and 1,000 MDMK workers were stopped in the Madhya Pradesh-Maharashtra border. It is strange that the freedom of movement of Indians is restricted for allowing a war crime accused foreigner.

Vaiko had earlier shot out a letter to Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Chief Minister of BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh, urging him to cancel the function at Sanchi. Yet, it is beyond one’s belief and comprehension that arrangements are in progress to greet Rajapaksa in the Indian soil.

Interestingly, India was one among the 24 countries who voted against Sri Lanka at UNHRC meeting in Geneva, held in March this year. The resolution passed against Sri Lanka urged Colombo to implement its own LLRC recommendations to ensure accountability and reconciliation.

Now, the big question is: Who actually invited Rajapaksa to Sanchi? A few days ago, news were doing rounds that it was Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj who had extended the invitation to Mahinda Rajapaksa, which was emphatically denied by Tamil Nadu State BJP president Pon Radhakrishnan. He said that the authority of inviting foreign heads rested with the Centre alone and added that Congress is the real culprit and hiding behind cover of rumours.

Union shipping minister and senior Congress leader, G K Vasan had told media persons on September 9 that it was the MP government that offered the invitation to Sri Lankan president and asked the media persons to check with the MP government.

Now, ‘passing the buck’ game is on play: BJP denies offering invitation – New Delhi keeps mum on the issue – a senior Congress minister asks to check with the MP government – the unflustered MP government goes about its preparations, paying no heed to the hue and cry from parties of Tamil Nadu!

‘Buck passing’ never seems to stop and no wonder India perfectly fits the image – ‘a country of not diversities but diverse stands.’

Karunanidhi, DMK patriarch, who always boasts himself of standing by the cause of Eelam Tamils, not surprisingly, did a U-turn as is his usual practice. He almost withdrew his party’s opposition to Rajapaksa’s visit to Sanchi. Armed with his usual diversional tactics, he blamed the Tamil Nadu government for sending back the Sri Lankan football teams and went on to say so blatantly,

‘We should not do anything in Tamil Nadu that could escalate the sufferings of Tamils in Sri Lanka and hamper their rehabilitation process; any hateful behavior towards a person visiting India is totally unacceptable.’

Is Karunanidhi an agent of Rajapaksa, operating from Tamil Nadu? He can be deemed fit to organize World Classical Tamil Conference and reel out pro-Tamil dialogues. He organized TESO conference with separate Eelam as its key demand and out of the blue, he suddenly dropped the idea, largely due to pressure from New Delhi. His job of supporting Eelam Tamils stops there. New Delhi is bent on maintaining cordial ties with Sri Lanka and Karunanidhi, a key UPA ally is forced to preserve his political interests and naturally will tow along with the Centre and its pro-Sri Lanka stand.

Meantime, Sri Lankan High Commissioner to India Prasad Kariyawasam had previously firmly stated that President Rajapaksa would visit Sanchi as per schedule and there is no turning back from it. He also termed the recent attacks on Sri Lankan pilgrims in Tamil Nadu as an ‘aberration’ and that relation between the two countries remains strong.

If Mahinda Rajapaksa attends the function at Sanchi, there is no guarantee that it will cement relations between India and Sri Lanka since he is seen to have firmed-up his alliance with China and Pakistan. But the Tamils of Sri Lanka will feel further alienated, with no solution in sight.