Sri Lanka and Fault Lines in the Indian South
Momin Iftikhar
5/13/2013

 

The dichotomy and irony implicit in the Indian repudiation of human rights violations in Sri Lanka , reportedly committed by country’s security forces, as they closed in to vanquish the last LTTE redoubt in the northern tip of Jafna peninsula, at the end of the three decades old war in May 2009, are staggering to say the least. India has made it manifest that it is not happy in the way the Sri Lankan Government of President Rajapakse , is treating the Tamil minority , following the defeat of one of the most virulent strain of terror laced insurgency , that ended four years ago with the death of one of the deadliest terrorist of his times; Velupillai Prabhakaran at the hands of the Sri Lankan security forces. To castigate Sri Lanka India is using the platform of the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva and the lead provided by a US sponsored resolution condemning Sri Lanka for committing anti Tamil atrocities during and following the anti insurgency operations. Brazenly interfering in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka , India earlier , at the universal periodic review of human rights at Geneva had hoped “for early progress towards reconciliation (between majority Sinhalese and minority Tamils), reduction of high security zones and return of private land by the military.”

India has a long history of playing a double game of supporting the LTTE terrorists and then coming around to lending a helping hand to the counter insurgency efforts by the Sri Lankan Government to find strategic leverage to check country’s pro China leanings. Another factor that played out significantly in this charade is the strident Tamil Nationalism in India’s Southern states that played a major role in raking separatism among Tamils in Sri Lanka who inhabit the northern and eastern parts of the island nation. Prabhakaran, the moving spirit behind Tamil separatism remained the darling of the Indian establishment as well as the Tamil Regional parties in the Indian South. With close parallel to the manner of raising Mukti Bahini for operations in East Pakistan, India provided him with the space among the Tamil dominated South along with ample material support to organize LTTE as a feared force which turned the North and East of the country into no go areas for the Lankan security forces. As the menace of separatism grew India offered Sri Lanka an accord that allow landing of Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) under General Harkirat Singh to quell the insurgency. The accord signed in Colombo by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Prime Minister Jayewardene in Jul 87 led to large scale protests and the event acquired an iconic touch with snap shot of a Sri Lankan naval rating, Rohana de Silva, attacking the Indian VIP with his rifle , while his companions in the honor guard stood at present arms. Indian ambitions to find a military toehold in Sri Lanka failed to materialize as LTTE turned out a tough nut to crack; stretching the Indian expeditionary force to the limits of its endurance. The mission was called off in 1990 and when the last ship carrying the IPKF sailed from Trincomalee , Indians had 1555 men killed, 2987 injured and had expended Rs. 1000 crore in the jungles of Northern Sri Lanka on a pain ridden wild goose chase. As a post script it should be pertinent to recollect that , in May 1991, Rajiv Gandhi, mentor of Indian military misadventure in Sri Lanka, who was then on the verge of reclaiming his prime ministerial office was assassinated in a suicide attack by a LTTE suicide bomber in Tamil Nadu.
No appraisal of Indo-Sri Lanka equation can be complete without bringing into reckoning the separatist ambitions of Tamil politicians of the Indian South who harbor ambition of returning to the grandeur of a Tamil nation state. Since late 1800s the history of Tamil Nadu is driven by an ambition among the Tamil people for self rule over a state comprising Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra, Karnataka, and the proposed states of Eelam in northeastern Sri Lanka and Malaya Nadu in plantation areas of central Sri Lanka. The strident political clout of the Tamil Regional Parties in the overall coalition based political scenario in India has given added weightage to the Tamil Nadu factor which carries with it a history of campaigning for separatism and an impulse to interfere in the internal matters of Sri Lanka concerning the Tamil minority. Many analysts believe that the Indian accommodation of the Tamil card in the realm of local and regional politics has widened the fissures of separatism within India; many prophesying that Tamil Nadu could well turn out to be “Kashmir of the South”.
India played an active role in supporting and directing the operations of LTTE cadres who have finally been tamed through a determined and bloody military campaign by Sri Lankan Army. Indian advisories to Sri Lanka, from the podium of international human rights watch organizations to conduct independent and credible investigation into allegations of civilian deaths during period of counterinsurgency campaigning is totally uncalled for. Likewise her pontification to Sri Lanka to ensure welfare of Sri Lankan Tamils which comprise 12% of the island’s population on the basis that they share close cultural and familial links with 62 million strong Tamils community in South India is manifestly stepping on the toes of its small neighbor and a brazen violation of her national sovereignty. On its own part India has to come clean with its sponsorship of the LTTE terrorists and the grave human rights violations they perpetrated on the citizenry of Sri Lanka and acknowledge the role played by its intelligence agencies and the “Kazagham” parties which have embraced the separatist elements from Sri Lanka with open arms; providing them with logistics, arms and safe sanctuaries to bleed their native land. On such occasions India also needs to look inwards and pledge to conduct transparent investigations into the wildly reported human rights abuses in the Indian Held Kashmir (IHK). For one, numerous mass graves that dot the IHK landscape need to be forensically investigated to determine the identities of luckless individuals that were summarily disposed off by India’s armed forces, operating with impunity under the overarching umbrella of draconian legislations like AFSPA.