Strife divides Indian Tamils
The ‘umbilical cord’ that is said to bind the Tamils of Tamil Nadu with their counterparts in Sri Lanka has been under much strain for the past two-and-a-half decades. But it hasn’t snapped as yet, reports MR Venkatesh.india Updated: Jan 31, 2009 00:09 IST
The ‘umbilical cord’ that is said to bind the Tamils of Tamil Nadu with their counterparts in Sri Lanka has been under much strain for the past two-and-a-half decades. But it hasn’t snapped as yet.
No Tamilian in India doubts that his counterpart in Sri Lanka was discriminated against by successive pro Sinhala governments in that country, and that the demand for a separate Tamil Eelam arose when Tamils could take it no longer. But the struggle has divided them: while some say support for their brothers across the Palk Straits should continue, others maintain they should have nothing to do with it.
Still others believe a hands off policy is just not possible. “The Sri Lanka problem is increasingly becoming interlocked with the political sentiments and issues prevalent in Tamil Nadu,” said SJ Thambiah, anthropology professor at Harvard University.
It is the violence and strife unleashed by the pro Eelam groups on Tamil Nadu’s soil that has left many Tamilians in this country disillusioned. Tamil Nadu residents remember the shootouts and blasts on Chennai’s streets in the mid 1980s as different Lankan Tamil groups — the LTTE, the PLOTE, the TELO, the EPRLF, the EROS among others — battled for supremacy, instead of fighting the Sri Lankan government.
Ultimately the LTTE emerged winner in this fratricidal war by killing the leaders of most rival Tamil groups.
Then came Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination on May 21, 1991. Insiders maintain that while Karunanidhi may have chosen to overlook the LTTE’s activities in India earlier — the DMK government was dismissed and president’s rule imposed for this very reason in early 1991 — he was appalled by the killing and wanted to have nothing to do with the LTTE thereafter. When V Gopalaswamy ‘Vaiko’ continued to root for the LTTE — he does so even now —Karunanidhi expelled him from the party.
The LTTE’s shadow blighted Karunanidhi’s politics once more in 1997, when the interim report of the Jain Commission looking into the murder, indicted the DMK for having helped the LTTE. This led to the collapse of the United Front government at the center, of which the DMK was a part. The final report, however, absolved the DMK.