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More Tamil than Lanka's Tamils

Lanka's ethnic minority is the biggest casualty in the ongoing political battle in Tamil Nadu. At the end of most wars, the worst sufferers are often the first who need to move on from the past.

india Updated: Mar 30, 2013 00:54 IST
Hindustan Times

Even as much of the nation took time off to ring in a colourful spring this Wednesday, Tamil Nadu's lawmakers were hard at work. Later that day, the state's assembly passed a resolution that was remarkable because of both its ambit and its timing. The resolution, moved by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, urged that the Centre return to the United Nations with a demand for a referendum in Sri Lanka, which would give the island nation's Tamil population and diaspora the opportunity to carve for themselves the independent state of Tamil Eelam. The resolution's other requests - India should impose economic sanctions on Sri Lanka and should stop classifying the country as a friendly nation - seemed reminiscent of the DMK's recent stance that had used again the pretext of a UN resolution to threaten the stability of the UPA 2 government. In Tamil Nadu's high stakes game of competitive one-upmanship, history will perhaps only view Ms Jayalalithaa's refusal to host Sri Lankan cricketers during this season's Indian Premier League as a minor footnote. However sport, it would seem, has more stories to tell than the balance of its scorecards.

Of the 13 Sri Lankan players affected by the Tamil Nadu CM's decision, two have a distinct Tamil lineage. Dubbing Chennai his second home, Tamil spinner and Royal Challengers Bangalore player Muttiah Muralitharan has urged Indian and Tamil Nadu authorities to first take into account the post-war reality of Sri Lanka, where all sections of the population are trying to reconcile to a newly-found peace. In a nation recovering from a 26-year-long civil war, a war that is estimated to have claimed the lives of 40,000 Tamils in just the first five months of 2009, Mr Muralitharan's assessment seems to be broadly held. Even though most ethnic Tamil political parties have demanded that Mahinda Rajapaksa's government be made more accountable, they have still pushed for greater and a more genuine reconciliation. Speaking to this newspaper last week, Valautham Dayanidhi, a former Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) spokesperson, insisted that the Sri Lankans be given greater agency and control over their own political future. Tamil Nadu's political parties, he said, were only fomenting trouble between Sri Lanka's Tamil and Sinhalese populations.

At the end of most wars, the worst sufferers are often the first who need to move on from the past. By entirely disregarding such efforts in a ravaged Sri Lanka, Tamil Nadu's assembly and its politicians are seeking to render simplistic a conflict, which apart from civilians, has also claimed the lives of Sri Lanka's third president Ranasinghe Premadasa, and closer home, that of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. Even in her ban of Sri Lankan cricketers, the AIADMK chief has set an artificial moral standard that India's other seemingly accommodating states will not be able to match. And even if they were so inclined, they should not follow suit.

First Published: Mar 29, 2013 22:37 IST