For a first-time visitor Jaffna could well be any mid-size town in Tamil Nadu by another name. Sri Krishna Bhavan restaurant at Tilko crossing wakes up to life at the crack of the dawn, before a smack of morning swelter so typical of Tamil Nadu sets in.
The restaurant that sells cigarettes to mobile sim cards comes alive slowly. ‘India not a foreign country, it is part of our motherland’. says Muthu, an autorickshaw driver as he digs to the local delicacy of string-hoppers, known as Idiyappam in southernmost parts of India.
‘There is some change now’, he continues, looking across the road where an HSBC bank dot the street along with Western Union Money transfer, and a shop selling dry fishes.
A few yards down the road, there is a posse of policeman and army personals. Their huddles are being peeled off into small groups and personnels standing all over the area that houses legendary Jaffna Public library, a historic witness to the upheavals in the ethnic politics of this island nation.
Dating back to 1933, the library was burnt down in 1981 as the civil war raged through Jaffna. It was restored after 21 years from then. A lending library, reference and sections along with a library restaurant.
The campus also has a statue of Samuel James Veluppillai Chelvanayakam was a Sri Lankan Tamil lawyer, politician and Member of Parliament. He was the political leader and father figure of the Sri Lankan Tamil community for more than two decades.
Prime Minister Modi will be arriving at the auditorium of the library at 1:30pm.
He will be here for next 25 minutes unveiling a plaque for a cultural centre.
Modi will also hand over keys to the owners of some of the houses India built for the war-replaced.
The Tamil National alliance (TNA) is part of the ruling alliance, but many feel the process of real reconciliation is yet to begin.
‘Sixty years we have waited. Still waiting. The politicians are, well politicians. So I know how much serious they are on addressing the real issue’, says Jagadeeshwaran, a businessman on a morning walk along the vast paddy fields under water.
He says India play an active role. ‘I dont know whether things will change in my lifetime. But India should play a more active role in helping us’, he adds.