Indian civil society’s conscience stirred for Lankan Tamils
The Indian civil society has woken up to the human rights excesses of the Sri Lankan government against minority Tamils. A group of Delhi based civil rights activists have initiated an online campaign demanding an independent international enquiry into charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide against the Sri Lankan State.
Sri Lanka has been accused of killing thousands of innocent Tamil civilians during its war against the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) - which was fighting for a separate State - in 2008-2009.
A petition prepared by the group has demanded that a White Paper be presented in the Indian Parliament on the role of Indian intelligence, armed forces, politicians and bureaucracy in the Sri Lankan war crimes.
The petition comes in the wake of the UN Expert Panel’s report that has found credible evidence of the Lankan government’s role in the deaths of thousands of Tamils caught in the war zone.
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The petition has demanded that punishment be meted out to those in the Sri Lankan Armed Forces and Establishment found guilty, as per international law and in proportion to the gravity of their crimes. It also demanded that the UN report should not be used as an excuse to orchestrate any form of violence against the Tamils in Sri Lanka
The activists intend to take the petition to former Chief Justice of India Rajinder Sachar for endorsement. Sachar had earlier served on a “People’s Permanent Tribunal” in Dublin that investigated allegations against the Sri Lankan government. Sachar had then said that though the war was over, the situation was yet to change and Tamils were yet to get their due respect as fellow citizens.
The tribunal had found conclusive evidence of wanton atrocities committed by the Sri Lankan state on Tamil civilians and combatants alike. The petition stated: “These included usage of banned chemical weapons, cluster bombs, rampant torture, summary executions and sexual abuse of captured women. The Tribunal also concluded that the charges of genocide require investigation considering evidences of systemic violence against the Tamils, even after the war was said to be over.”
Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse has directed his party officials to use May 1, Labour Day, for protests against the UN Report. He has urged Sri Lankans to gather in millions in Colombo to express their anguish over the report.
Civil rights activist Satya Sivaraman, who filed the petition online said, “The issue isn’t a Tamils issue, it’s a human rights issue. The standoff between the Sri Lankan government and UN is for everyone to see. The Labour Day rally is anti-Tamil in nature and the situation is very tense in the island nation as fascist sentiments seem to have taken over.”
He also added that with the petition they intend to bring the Sri Lankan Tamils issue out of Tamil Nadu to the rest of India and South Asia.
“While reports of Tamil genocide in Sri Lanka are making headlines in the West, there is hardly anything that is being reported by the South Asian media. We want to make it a pan south Asian issue that should concern all in the region,” Sivaraman added.
He also mentioned that the role of the Indian government should also be investigated and if guilty the country should be implicated too. “Rajapakse was the chief guest at the Republic Day parade held in New Delhi. What does this mean? Does it imply that the Indian government and Sri Lankan government are hand in glove with each other?” he questioned.
Even writer-activist Arundhati Roy had raised serious doubts about the role of Indian media in its coverage of war crimes in Sri Lanka. Roy in her piece on the issue for Guardian in April 2009 wrote, “The horror that is unfolding in Sri Lanka becomes possible because of the silence that surrounds it. There is almost no reporting in the mainstream Indian media - or indeed in the international press - about what is happening there…”
Members of Delhi Tamil Students Union, Jawaharlal Nehru University, are playing an active role in the campaign.
Karthik, a member of the Union said they hope to get the support of Rajinder Sachar, and Arundhati Roy for their campaign to make the Sri Lankan government accountable for its war crimes.
At the same time, he expressed concern at the Rajapakse government’s call for the May 1 rally.
"Rajapakse's call for strike could have serious repercussions. We want to bring it to the people's notice that every time there is a call for strike (on Tamils issue) either by the government or opposition, violence is unleashed against the Tamils," he said.