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Mumbai unites Sinhalese, Tamils

If you were an Indian in Colombo last week, you would have got a pat of empathy on your back and a shake of the head from Sinhala and Tamil friends.

world Updated: Dec 02, 2008 23:20 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

If you were an Indian in Colombo last week, you would have got a pat of empathy on your back and a shake of the head from Sinhala and Tamil friends. Familiar three-wheeler drivers and departmental store attendants would have said “terrorists” followed by “bad, very bad” and “damn shame.” Mumbai burned and Colombo relived its own, repeated trysts with terror.

The 60-hour-long dance of violence in India’s financial capital and its political aftermath was extensively covered by the media here. Local television channels showed footage sourced from Indian counterparts. Newspapers — in English, Tamil and Sinhala — gave the news top priority. Shops and showrooms continuously beamed the only available Indian English news channel. Executives out for lunch, college students taking a break and exhausted traffic policemen crowded shop fronts in front of wide screens for an update. “Pakistan?” and “Kashmir?’’ would have been the uncomfortable names thrown at you.

The increased patrolling around hotels and offices seemed exhaustive. Furrows on foreheads deepened while checking identity cards on ill-lit streets.

It was hardly a help that all this was happening during what is marked by the LTTE as the martyrs’ week and chief V Prabhakaran’s 54th birthday.

But if political and strategic analysts expected a reaction from the LTTE on the events in Mumbai, they were mistaken. It was during the continuing siege of urban India’s psyche that Prabhakaran delivered his annual 19th Heroes Day’ speech.

The 3000-word address, which was peppered with the mention of “super power’’ India, however, did not have a single mention of what was happening in Mumbai.

“The speech could have been written before the events (in Mumbai). But even after that, there was no statement from the LTTE,’’ said Dharmalingam Siddharthan of the People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE). There was no mention, he added, in spite of the fact that LTTE often takes, what some call misplaced, pride in separating themselves from other subversive and violent movements in the world.

"They claim to be fighting for land and liberation unlike other groups," Siddharthan explained.

The attacks on Mumbai, however, were likely to have an impact on how the ethnic conflict raging in Sri Lanka was viewed from Tamil Nadu, Siddharthan felt. “After the incidents in Mumbai, there would be less open support for the LTTE in Tamil Nadu,’’ he said, indicating that the small political parties in the state which openly support the cause of the Tigers could find the backlash too strong to handle.