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Sleepless in Sri Lanka

The victory of the armed forces in Kilinochchi might have triggered a sense of euphoria among the Sinhala majority but it also raised wave of quiet unease among Tamils in Colombo, writes Sutirtho Patranobis.

world Updated: Jan 06, 2009 17:42 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

The victory of the armed forces in Kilinochchi might have triggered a sense of euphoria among the Sinhala majority but it also raised wave of quiet unease among Tamils in Colombo.

What did not help matters was another unofficial Tamil census held this week on those staying in Colombo but belonging to other parts of the country. More than 100 were detained because they could not furnish enough details about what they were doing in the Capital. Imagine a situation where all those who migrate to New Delhi everyday from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar being asked to furnish reasons for their apparently unwelcome visit.

The military and police of course said that it was done to check the entry of suicide bombers into the city. They added that the census was also done to also ferret out sleeping LTTE cadres from Colombo's Tamil majority areas. No doubt, a chilling reminder of the Tigers' capability of violent retaliation was the suicide blast in front of the air force headquarters the same day Kilinochchi fell. But was it reason enough to alienate or make awkward the lives of thousands of Tamils who abhor violence as much as the majority community does?

Television channels continuously beamed footage of residents in South Sri Lanka bursting crackers and unfurling the Lankan flag. The same footage was shown through the day. A newspaper reported: ``According to sources, people in Colombo, Dambulla, Galle and many other cities throughout the country celebrated this jubilant moment thanking the security forces.'' If celebration is to be reported from ``sources'', it leaves one to wonder how widespread the joy of victory actually was.

It was not as if every one swallowed the victory of taking over a bare, empty town as the ``beginning of the end'' of LTTE. ``No doubt, it is an achievement. I mean it was the LTTE capital, a symbol and seat of their power. But what did the army capture? Was a single cadre arrested? They had long left the town,'' said government hospital doctor who preferred to remain anonymous.

A website columnist wrote: ``in opinion polls a majority of Tamil respondents express a clear preference for an immediate ceasefire while most Sinhala respondents want the war to be continued. This is an understandable divergence since it is Tamils who have to bear the brunt of the war and it is Tamils who suffer most at the hands of both the LTTE and the Lankan state. Moreover the dominant section of the regime and the state regard the war as a Sinhala on Tamil conflict (as does the LTTE).'' Probably it is this majority-minority dichotomy that continues to deny Sri Lanka its share of peace.