‘India postponed Operation Eelam and Blue Star intervened’
A quarter century of India’s military intervention in Sri Lanka, ostensibly to help find a political solution to the ethnic strife that has torn the island nation apart, has left the Tamil minority under occupation of the Sinhala military trained and equipped by New Delhi and their political rights almost extinguished.
In contrast, the same Indian military was able to liberate the people of what was then East Pakistan subjected by the oppressive West Pakistan regime, in a quick surgical military operation lasting less than a month in 1971.
India remains a mute spectator to the rapid Sinhalisation of Tamil homeland. A recently constructed Buddhist stupa in Tamil territory
The reason for producing such a vastly different result is the present poor political leadership in Delhi. Colombo suffers from a Mahavamsa mindset and New Delhi from a Malayalee mindset.
Both are detrimental to the interests of the Tamils of Sri Lanka and standing in the way of finding a lasting political solution to the ethnic problem. It remains to be seen whether the mandarins in the South Block are able to pull the wool over the eyes of the new External Affairs Minister, Salman Khurshid, as they successfully did in the case of SM Krishna and his predecessor who is presently the President of India, Pranab Mukherjee.
To give just one example of how naïve our political leadership has been, a statement made by Mukherjee on 27 April, 2009, after a visit to Colombo accompanied by Shivshankar Menon, national security adviser, will suffice.
He said: “The Sri Lankan security forces have been instructed to end the use of heavy caliber guns, combat aircraft and aerial weapons, which could cause civilian casualties.
“Sri Lankan forces will now confine their attempts to rescue the civilians who remain and give foremost priority in saving them. This is an important first step in addressing concerns for the safety and security of Tamil civilians and internally displaced persons trapped in the conflict zone.”
Even before Mukherjee’s special aircraft from Colombo could land in New Delhi Sri Lanka’s worst ever genocidal blood bath took place which left more than 40,000 innocent Tamil civilians dead - the counting still goes on - besides decapitating the LTTE. And India praised Sri Lanka for its victory over “terrorists.”
Having earned the displeasure of Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa for voting the US-sponsored resolution, albeit a watered down version, at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva earlier this year, his loyalists in the South Block persuaded Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to invite him to Delhi during his visit to Sanchi to inaugurate an international Buddhist university in September, and roll the red carpet for the visitor.
India is reported to have assured Sri Lanka of support in international forum. Sri Lanka’s Universal Periodic Review on human rights is scheduled to be taken up in Geneva on 1 November.
The United Kingdom and the USA have asked about the status of the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation report and the bilateral talks with the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) which have been going on for the last two years without any progress.
Rajapaksa complained to Manmohan Singh that he was keen on arriving at a political solution through a Parliamentary Select Committee but the TNA was not cooperating.
New Delhi invited a TNA parliamentary delegation which told Manmohan Singh that in the 20-member Select Committee it was allotted three slots and pointed out that all anti-Tamil measures since Sri Lankan independence like disenfranchising a million Tamils in 1948 and the Sinhala only Act of 1956 were carried out through parliamentary majority of the Sinhalese. Only through bilateral negotiations any meaningful settlement could be found.
Following the 1 November review of progress on Sri Lanka’s human rights by UNHRC, a troika chaired by India with Benin and Spain will prepare a report which will be adopted on 5 November.
All three voted for the US resolution at the 19th session of the UNHRC against Sri Lanka. Will India act by its conscience or let Sri Lanka off the hook at this crucial meeting is the question everyone is asking.
Provisions of the 13th Amendment to the Sri Lanka Constitution, a result of the 1987 Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement, still remain unimplemented. But as long as it remains in the statute book, it cramps the autocratic style of the Rajapaksa government, which has come out with a draft legislation called the Divi Neguma Bill – it means ‘life uplifting’ but actually aimed at controlling the total economy of the nation by the Rajapaksa family.
When the Bill was tabled in Parliament after getting it cleared by the Cabinet, the TNA challenged it in the Supreme Court. The court ruled that the Bill should be endorsed by all the nine Provincial Councils according to Article 154 of the Constitution.
If the Divi Neguma Bill ever becomes law, the Rajapaksa siblings will control 64 per cent of all government expenditure. The only way the government with two-thirds majority in Parliament can push through this legislation is by repealing the 13th Amendment.
Provisions of the 13th Amendment make it mandatory for the government to obtain the approval of all the nine elected Provincial Councils. Eight of the nine Provincial Councils, including the Eastern Province which is part of the traditional Tamil homeland and controlled by the ruling coalition through political legerdemain, have endorsed the Bill, but the coalition is facing its Waterloo in the Northern Province which is the domain of the TNA.
Hence the people of the Province have been denied of a free and fair election even after three years of the end of the civil war. To get around the problem, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, defence secretary, has come out with the ultimate solution of repealing the 13th Amendment.
A huge Buddha statue at Kilinochchi
Empirical evidence over the last 64 years shows the Sri Lankan government is neither interested in promoting reconciliation nor in finding an acceptable political solution to the Tamil problem.
There has been no movement so far towards implementing the recommendations of the LLRC. The longer the report is put on the shelf, the greater the chances of the grievances of the minority community exploding.
The erection of a victory memorial at Mullivaaikal, the centre of mass killings of Tamils and their humiliation in the summer of 2009, shows the utter lack of sensitivity of the ruling class. It has become a great tourist attraction for the Sinhalese.
One wonders how this memorial would promote unity among Tamils and Sinhalese and ensure coexistence between the two communities. A solution within united Sri Lanka may be possible if the Northern and the Eastern Provinces are merged again and free and fair election held for its Provincial Council and power devolved to the elected council as per the provisions of the 13th Amendment.
The government, on the other hand, is intent on disqualifying and discrediting the TNA, an umbrella organisation of the Sri Lankan Tamils, by resorting to the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution enacted in 1983 which prohibits political parties advocating the establishment of a separate State.
An unknown advocate has moved a petition in the Supreme Court seeking disqualification of all political parties demanding a separate State. The relevant Article 157A states: “Where any political party or other association or organisation has as one of its aims or objects the establishment of a separate State within the territory of Sri Lanka, any person may make an application to the Supreme Court and the secretary or other officer of such political party shall be made a respondent to such application.”
Unlike the present Delhi leadership, Indira Gandhi realised in 1983 itself that a Tamil State comprising the Northern and the Eastern Provinces was the only feasible solution to the ethnic problem.
With this end in view, Tamil youth from Sri Lanka were given military training on Indian soil and armed for a quick Mukhthi Bahini-type operation backed by Indian armed forces.
Even the date for the action in the early part of 1984 was fixed. Unfortunately, the Chennai-based RAW officer of Kerala origin who was subsequently jailed, leaked the information to a CIA operative and President JR Jayawardene was duly alerted by Washington.
The operation was postponed and Blue Star intervened. The rest is history.
Sam Rajappa is Consulting Editor of The Weekend Leader
'Eelam is our ultimate goal'