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Faith redux

india Updated: Jun 22, 2006 11:17 IST

Sri Lankan Tamils have welcomed the change in the stance of Tamil Nadu and New Delhi towards the ethnic conflict in the island.

On Wednesday, Colombo-based Tamil dailies prominently carried news about Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's telephonic conversation with the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi and his decision to send the National Security Advisor MK Narayanan to Chennai to discuss the matter with the regional satrap.

The most popular Tamil daily Virakesari said in an edit that it was heartening that the people of Tamil Nadu were voicing their concern about the plight of the Tamils in Sri Lanka, as they did earlier (in the 1980s).

It said that the Sri Lankan Tamils were initially disappointed that Karunanidhi, who had boasted that he was "living for the world Tamils" had made no comment on the worsening situation in Sri Lanka after he assumed office.

The disappointment was all the more when they found that other political parties in Tamil Nadu, including the BJP, were wanting Karunanidhi and New Delhi to take some action to help out the suffering Tamils of Sri Lanka.

Virakesari recalled that Vijayakanth, the popular actor and leader of a new Dravidian political party, had criticised the Sri Lankan government for using the Air Force to bomb its own people.

Vijayakanth had pointed out that even in the midst of the killings in Kashmir, the Indian government never used the Air Force to bomb the troubled areas.

Karunanidhi's silence was intriguing when the media in Tamil Nadu was highlighting the plight of fellow Tamils across the Palk Strait and was demanding that India step in, stop the killings, and bring relief to the beleaguered Tamil minority.

The respected Chennai-based daily Dinamani had even asked the Indian government to help implement the Ceasefire Agreement in Sri Lanka.

Change of heart

Eventually, though belatedly, all this did rub off on Karunanidhi, Virkesari said.

He broke his silence and said that he had never forgotten the Sri Lankan Tamils.

This provided timely succour to the suffering Tamils in Sri Lanka, the paper said.

Karunanidhi then went on to tell his coalition partners that it was important for India to help Sri Lanka find a peaceful solution to the conflict.

A resolution to this effect was adopted after a lengthy debate held in the DMK's headquarters in Chennai.

India can't shirk responsibility

Virakesari said that the suffering Tamils of Sri Lanka believed that their security lay in fleeing to India.

In this context, India could not shirk its responsibility to arrest the worsening situation in Sri Lanka and help bring peace there, it stressed.

The question as to how long India could afford to watch from the sidelines, the growing tension in Sri Lanka had arisen, the paper said.

Sooner or later the tension in the island would impact on New Delhi's own regional security interests, it pointed out.

India would also have to take into account the possibility that if war were to break out in Sri Lanka, other powers like Pakistan and US could enter the scene and help the Sri Lankan government militarily.

"One might expect India to be watchful in this regard," the paper said.

It noted the fact that Indian leaders had said on many occasions that New Delhi would not be a silent spectator if war were to start and people were being killed.

India has already started opening new refugee camps to meet the increasing flow of refugees from Sri Lanka, Virakesari pointed out.

"Many feel that it will be very heartening if India were to do what it could to foster the peace process in Sri Lanka."

"It is very important to stop the harassment and killing of innocent Tamils," the paper said.

Right time to intervene

"This is the time for India to make efforts to stop the killings and restore human rights. India should not miss the opportunity to help find a peaceful solution to the conflict in the island and help the people lead a peaceful life."

"The people of Tamil Nadu are voicing the concerns of the Tamils of Sri Lanka out of humanitarian considerations. New Delhi should listen to their voice," Virakesari said.