‘Sri Lanka Style Solution Gets Legitimacy From India’
A public meeting on “The Tamil Eelam Movement: Contemporary Crisis and its Significance” was conducted at JNU on 1st April, by the Coordination Committee for Oppressed Nationalities (CCON). The meeting sought to discuss the present scenario in Eelam and its implications for the Tamil people as well as for other oppressed nationalities. CCON was formed in March 2011 to provide a platform to build solidarity among oppressed nationalities, especially in South Asia, and to debate and discuss issues concerning them.
The meeting started with the book release of “In the Name of Peace: IPKF massacres of Tamils in Sri Lanka.” The 39 page book which documents various atrocities committed by the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka was released by A. Bimol Akoijam, Professor of Sociology, JNU. Prof. Akoijam, who also chaired the meeting, discussed the frameworks of the debates on ‘terrorism’ in the mainstream. Pointing out that “terrorism is the illegitimate child of a legitimate politics”, he said that the ruling classes deployed the terminology of ‘terrorism’ to delegitimise political movements. He also argued that Sri Lanka gets legitimized by India to be used as a card to be played against the nationalities that it oppresses, giving the example of how the Indian government threatened the Naga movement with the possibility of a ‘Sri Lanka Style’ solution.
S. Santosh, visiting faculty in School of Arts and Aesthetics, JNU and Sabih Ahmed, ex-student, JNU, who had visited Jaffna recently, discussed their experiences and observations. Talking about the omnipresence of the military in Jaffna, Santosh said that the day to day instances of army interrogations gave the atmosphere of an “open prison” in Jaffna. He was complemented by Sabih who said that the military in Jaffna was “a demonstration of power in the most archaic sense.” Pointing out how many ‘liberal’ Sri Lankan intellectuals took an easy way out of their ethical responsibilities to discuss the contemporary situation in Sri Lanka, Santosh said that they were rather content speculating that Rajapaksa might deliver a solution to the Tamil problem. He also noted that surveillance by the Sri Lankan state restricted academic freedom and freedom to dissent.
Referring to the cultural assaults on the Tamils, Sabih argued that in their attempts to erase memories, the Sri Lankan government “was deliberately trying to eliminate all traces of Tamil culture” through the demolition of historical buildings and erasure of local histories. Supporting his argument, Santosh gave examples of the demolition of LTTE monuments and the state-supported construction of Buddhist statues.
Satya Sivaraman, independent journalist and activist, who spoke next, lamented the “shared level of deliberate ignorance” among the Indian intelligentsia. Speaking on India’s “pernicious” role in the Sri Lankan conflict he said that “India acted as a broker, part-manager and bouncer for Sri Lanka.” He argued that India acted as a buffer between the world and the war on Tamils and that India ensured that there was no attempt to impose a ceasefire in Sri Lanka. Remarking that “India is as complicit in the genocide of Tamils as Sri Lanka” Sivaraman stressed on the necessity for a movement in India to press for the prosecution of officials in the Lankan government who were responsible for war crimes against the Tamils and to pressurize the Indian government to release a white paper on its role in the conflict. “Once you allow such a crime to happen in your neighborhood, that too with the support of your government, it can happen in your own home tomorrow” he said. Sivaraman also emphasized on the need for solidarity between Eelam Tamils and the other oppressed nationalities. “A separatist movement needs to unify with a larger entity beyond itself” he said.
Following a question-answer session in which students from other nationalities also actively participated, ‘Mullaitivu saga’, a documentary on the atrocities of the Lankan armed forces on the Tamils in the last stages of the war, was screened. The film-maker of the documentary, Someetharan, was also present to interact with the students. The representative from CCON concluded with the organization’s position that without justice and freedom for the Tamils, ‘peace’ in Sri Lanka is merely an empty phrase.