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Maintaining a safe distance

india Updated: Apr 22, 2009 22:02 IST
Hindustan Times
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The Mahinda Rajapaksa government is now more determined than ever to get its military victory as it presses ahead with its final assault on a small 17 km strip of land in northern Sri Lanka. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are equally determined to hold out till the bitter end. In the middle are thousands of civilians, many severely wounded, who seem caught between the devil and the deep sea. And with over one lakh already in transit camps with little food, water or medical aid, the situation can only get worse. So why is the world, India included, largely silent on what is a humanitarian crisis of gigantic proportions?

In a world increasingly fed up with terrorism, it would appear that many countries are not averse to the Sri Lankan army wiping out the LTTE once and for all. The DMK supremo M. Karunanidhi may fire off telegrams to the Centre calling for an immediate and permanent ceasefire, but no one expects the Indian government to turn the heat on Colombo for the moment. Many in India and elsewhere blame the LTTE for bringing things to such a pass. The terrorist outfit, deemed so by 30 countries, had become notorious for its senseless suicide bombings and its recruitment of child soldiers and other atrocities. And after its catastrophic mistake in engineering the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, it has never gained legitimacy in the public eye, except now and again when politically expedient. Within Sri Lanka too, the LTTE seems to have metamorphosed from a liberation outfit into a terrorist one, preying often on the Tamils themselves. The dream of Eelam had long gone and no one but the most naïve believed that a bloodthirsty tyrant like V. Prabhakaran could deliver on a democratic homeland for the Tamils. It is unfortunate that the sins of the LTTE seem to be visiting themselves upon the innocent Tamils who have suffered terribly in the ruinous civil war that has dragged on for 25 years.

The first task of the Rajapaksa government must be the rehabilitation of those who have borne the brunt of the hostilities. The next will be to heal the rift between the Sinhala people and the Tamils. These are promises he has made in the past. After the military victory, which is now a matter of time, he has no excuse to put these off.