Don’t Arrest SL Tamils: Rights Activists

Refugees_India5_20061The arrest of 10 Sri Lankan Tamils, who fled the island nation following persecution, has evoked angry reactions from rights activists and Tamil outfits here.

The 10 Lankan Tamils, including five children, who arrived in Dhanushkodi, were arrested under the Foreigners Act and sent to Puzhal Prison in Chennai on May 5. The refugees came in two batches.

Many Tamils have sought asylum in India during the decades-old war between the LTTE  and the Lankan defence forces. After the war ended, about 20,000 Lankan Tamils returned to their homeland hoping for a peaceful life, after getting exit permission from the government of India. However, there was no end to the sufferings of Tamils on Lankan soil.

Even five years after the end of civil war in the island nation, the Lankan army continued to abduct Tamil youth without any reason and tortured them on charges of reviving terrorism. Many youth disappeared and there was no word on their whereabouts.

Meanwhile, the Indian government stopped receiving  Tamils as refugees from 2011, presuming that peace had returned to the island nation.

Thereafter, the Tamils who landed on Indian shores were detained under the Foreigners’ Act and sent to prison.

Sheik Ibrahim, Ramanathapuram district coordinator of People’s Watch, said the Lankan Tamils were not aware of the new rules. The Indian government should give refugee status to Lankan Tamils. They should be allowed to live in the refugee camps and enjoy the benefits provided to other refugees in the camp, he added.

He blamed the Centre for its insensitive approach towards Lankan Tamils when they flee the island leaving all their belongings behind, hoping for a peaceful life.

A source at the Special Deputy Collector’s office in Mandapam camp, said the Centre had instructed them not to admit anyone who arrived after 2011 as refugees.

Marx, organiser for People’s Union for Human Rights (Tamil Nadu chapter), told Express that this attitude of the Centre was  condemnable. The  Tamils sought asylum to protect their lives and they were sent to the prison. The government should accommodate them in the refugee and stop persecuting refugees as they are not criminals, he added.

Nedumaran, president to World Tamil Confederation, told Express that former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and former Chief Minister M G Ramachandran had accepted the Lankan Tamils as refugees and made all arrangements for them. The Indian government is taking action against Lankan Tamils under pressure from Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse, he alleged.