Opposition parties in Tamil Nadu under the banner of the recently floated ‘Sri Lankan Tamils Protection Movement (STPM)’ on Saturday called for a State-wide ‘Bandh’ on Feb 4, to press for immediate ceasefire by the Rajapakshe regime in Northern Sri Lanka to protect the Tamils there.
The STPM leaders chose Feb 4 for this massive protest action as it also happens to be the ‘Sri Lankan Independence Day’, to send a symbolic message that the “Island Tamils too deserve their freedom”, the State CPI Secretary, Mr. D. Pandian explained.
As the STPM convened in Chennai to announce this, and to mourn the death of the 26-year-old Tamil youth K. Muthukumar who burnt himself to death over the Island-Tamils issue on Thursday, another self-immolation bid by a youth in Dindigul district for the same cause was received with shock and indignation.
A former Congressman and a veteran backer of the Sri Lankan Tamils cause, Mr. P. Nedumaran, who is the STPM convenor, announced their decision to observe a “peaceful Bandh” on Feb 4. He appealed to the Tamil Nadu youths not to take to such acts of violent self-abnegation. Essential services are exempt from the ‘Bandh’.
Mr. Nedumaran, in the presence of the other STPM leaders including the MDMK Chief, Mr. Vaiko, PMK’s founder-leader, Dr. S. Ramadoss, Mr. Pandian, Dalit Panthers of India leader, Thol. Thirumavalavan, and former Congress MP and President of the Nationalist Congress Party’s State unit, Mr. ‘Tindivanam’ Ramamurthy, also announced another protest on Feb 7, “to take out black flag rallies throughout Tamil Nadu.”
While the STPM leaders swore that their initiative, to press the Centre to impress upon Sri Lanka to stop the war, was "beyond party politics and not a new alliance for the coming Lok Sabha polls”, significantly the BJP also joined the STPM today.
Sharing the platform with the CPI, the saffron party was represented at the meeting by former Union BJP Minister, Mr. S. Thirunavukkarasar, who made it clear that their sole concern was what India could do “to ensure immediate ceasefire in Northern Sri Lanka and safety of the Tamils there”. The parties decided not to raise contentious issues vis-à-vis the LTTE or their goal of a ‘separate Tamil State’ at this forum, he said.
After the meeting condoled Muthukumar’s death, Mr. Vaiko read out a poem penned by a Sri Lankan Tamil poet, Puduvai Rathinathurai, “immortalizing the Tamil Nadu lad for his sacrifice”. He said another person, B. Ravi of Pallapatti village near Dindigul, about 450 km South of Chennai, sympathizing with the Tamils cause and setting himself afire after dousing with kerosene outside his house last night, caused grave concern.
It was now clear that Sri Lanka had not declared any 48-hours ceasefire, and even yesterday 27 Tamils were killed and 68 others injured in the Mullaitivu area there, Vaiko said and urged that India should not assist Sri Lanka militarily or in any other manner.
The STPM also stressed that the Sri Lankan Tamils plight was distinct from terrorism.
The 39-year-old Ravi, admitted to Government Rajaji Hospital in Madurai late last night with 80 per cent burns was battling for his life, while his suicidal act kicked up a row. Dindigul Police claimed that the alleged bootlegger Ravi’s act of self-immolation was “due to a family problem and had nothing to do with the Sri Lankan Tamils issue”.
But Mr. Vaiko refuted it, alleging that Police was “berating” Ravi’s action, who had even named one of his four sons Prabhakaran (after LTTE Chief). Later, the STPM leaders joined a 13 km-long funeral rally from the deceased Muthukumar’s residence to a cremation ground in North Chennai, giving a tearful farewell to the “Tamil Hero”.