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Sri Lanka needs some Gandhigiri

world Updated: Jul 14, 2010 00:40 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times
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Minister Wimal Weerawansa is not known to be particularly fond of India. But if he secretly watches Hindi movies over Haldiram's bhujia and canned gulab jamuns, he could borrow the 2006-movie about the goofy don, Lage Raho Munna Bhai, from me. The movie will teach him a thing or two about Gandhigiri and how to say it with flowers next time he decides to go on a two-day 'fast unto death' against the United Nations.

I'm certain that the UN doesn't function like rich North Indian property dealers but extending roses would anyway appear more graceful then threatening the world body's staffers from entering office.

(On political hunger strikes, I could send him an internet link on Manipur's Irom Sharmila and her 10-year-long fast.)

The protests gave a lot of publicity to Weerawansa, easily the most in his 21 years of leftist-ultra nationalist politics. But it put Sri Lanka on diplomatic back foot. In spite of all his hungry histrionics, the three-member advisory panel is expected to meet soon to firm up modalities to look into alleged human rights abuses during the final stages of Lanka's civil war.

Of course, if Weerawansa's dual aims were to send UN's Lanka envoy Neil Bunhe on an unplanned New York trip and give the agency a chance to quickly shut down the downsized UNDP regional office then he was wildly successful.

But Weerawansa wasn't the lonely crusader; the government's support was not painfully tacit.

The video-sharing website YouTube, for one, has this upload in which a powerful ministerial secretary – there are not many in Sri Lanka – ordering a top police officer over phone to remove policemen from the protest venue. The External Affairs Ministry all but said it was in fact very happy with the protests; diplomacy failed to stall the panel, so lets get down to the street.

It was the same government and police which had lobbed tear gas shells on protesters and forcibly removed monks fasting in support of detained former army chief, Sarath Fonseka just a few months ago.

Meanwhile, Weerawansa should take heart and stomach that he fared better than M Karunanidhi. Karunanidhi's fast-to-death on the Sri Lankan Tamil issue in April, 2009, lasted for exactly six hours.