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The source of much celebration

world Updated: Jan 07, 2009 00:22 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

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

What did not help matters was another unofficial Tamil census held this week on those living 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 every day from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are asked to furnish reasons for their apparently unwelcome visit.

The military and police, of course, said this was done to check the entry of suicide bombers into the city. They added that the census was also aimed at ferreting out sleeper 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 and thanked the security forces.’’

If celebration is to be reported from “sources”, one wonders how widespread the joy of victory actually was. Not everyone saw the taking over of an empty town as the “beginning of the end” of the 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 a 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 continue. This is an understandable divergence since it is the Tamils who have to bear the brunt of the war, and 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).’’

It is probably this majority-minority dichotomy that continues to deny Sri Lanka its share of peace.