Dr. Parasaran Rangarajan for Salem-News.com
The founding father of India, Mahatma Gandhi, encouraged Hindus to read the teachings of Jesus Christ to form unity and when Tamil nationalism rose in the late 1970’s
(WASHINGTON DC) – For nearly 30 years, the phrase “Tamil Eelam” has been associated with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) who fought a bloody civil war against the government of Sri Lanka for a separate homeland in the Northeast of the island. Historically, Tamil Eelam has existed on the island of what was known as Ceylon in the form of Tamil Kingdoms for thousands of years as the rich Vanni, Jaffna, and Chola Kingdoms were one of the largest in history and spanned several nations of what is known as Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, etc today. To that effect, Tamil is currently the official language in Singapore and Hindu temples exist throughout Southeast Asia and Tamil is recognized as one of the world’s oldest languages dating back to 7000 BC according to archeologists as its scriptures have even been found in China.
After the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka, Tamil nationalism and Tamil Eelam has shifted from militancy to peaceful resistance in the form of a legal and political campaign taken up by various Tamil Diaspora organizations around the world and those in India. The international community has also realized that grave injustices have occurred during this civil war and recently passed a resolution to investigate violations of international law in the last phases (2002-2009) at the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC). Various reports detail genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes against the Tamil people leading up to the highest levels of government and the guilty will be held accountable as no genocidal leader has gone unpunished in history. The Tamil genocide is indeed a dark period as day after day in the early months of 2009, civilian bodies turned up in the “No Fire Zones” without the government stopping the shelling which amounted up to an estimated 75,000 Tamil civilians dead and nearly 150,000 Tamil civilians missing according to the U.N. This will not set the precedent we want to see in the beginning of the 21st century if proper remedy is not given to the victims.
It is not without to say that the LTTE were not a ferocious militant group who designated themselves the “sole representatives of Tamil Eelam” and although not based on religious ideology, were listed ahead groups such as Al-Qaeda in terms of danger according to the FBI as they maintained their own Navy, Air Force, Intelligence, and Army but with their elimination comes with it a new page in the national struggle. The Tamil Eelam struggle must be separated from the LTTE as the LTTE never created the idea of “Tamil Eelam”. Although similar, even the LTTE and Tamil Eelam national flags are different and distinct with the latter being legal around the world including the U.S. or Europe. The failure to grant a distinct nation for the Tamils of Sri Lanka who are in majority Hindus and Christians with Muslims was a blunder by the British when leaving the sub-continent leaving the island of Ceylon to the ruling Buddhist Sinhalese who have formed their own militant organizations to attack religious sites of worship far from adhering to the peaceful teachings of Buddha.
The founding father of India, Mahatma Gandhi, visited Tamil dominated Jaffna in 1927 and confessed to witnessing a “painful shock” on the disparity between the Hindu and Christian communities. He encouraged Hindus to read the teachings of Jesus Christ to form unity and when Tamil nationalism rose in the late 1970’s, Tamils, regardless of their religion were united in fighting the injustices imposed upon them by the Sri Lankan government which continues to this day. Gandhi’s teachings also inspired a “Satyagarha” or non-violent movement by Tamils from 1950 in Sri Lanka before the LTTE took up arms. Unfortunately, the militarized zones of Northeast Sri Lanka today do not allow for any type of freedom of expression or freedom of speech as those speaking of Tamil Eelam are automatically arrested under the arbitrary Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and groups placed on “banned” lists. These denials of basic freedoms must be addressed as it is an abuse of the U.N. resolutions being cited.
It is not to justify the extra atrocities committed by the LTTE, especially those towards India in the late 1980’s and early 90’s, but it must be realized that the Tamil national question and Tamil Eelam is not limited to the single militant outfit which no longer exists nearly 40 years later from its inception nor can we hold a grudge towards an entire nation for the acts of one group. Even during the civil war, there were many Tamil militant outfits, not limited to the LTTE, some favored by India more than others which armed these organizations through its external intelligence agency; the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) providing them training in India. For example, former Indian intelligence officers found the People’s Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE) more preferable to deal with after LTTE refused to lay down arms and even found the political wing of the LTTE led by S.P. Tamilselvan more favorable than LTTE Chief Prabhakaran who saw armed conflict as the only solution.
The father of Tamil Eelam is not the guerilla leader but S.J.V. (Samuel James Velupillai) Chelvanayakam who represented Tamils in Sri Lankan Parliament in a political party called the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) since the 1950’s and with no progress in gaining equality by the 70’s, helped pass the Vaddukoddai Resolution by democratic vote in Sri Lanka openly calling for a “free, sovereign, secular, socialist, state of Tamil Eelam”. Today, the principles of the Vaddukoddai Resolution and the Tamil Eelam national struggle is carried on by the Tamil Diaspora organizations such as the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) who were democratically elected government by the Tamil Diaspora and created the position of the first Prime Minister of Tamil Eelam although not an independent state as of yet. Tamil Eelam is also advocated by political parties in India.
In fact, it is political suicide for parties in southern India not to support Tamil Eelam so it is difficult to understand the recent proscription or banning of certain Tamil Diaspora organizations by Sri Lanka. Politicians in these groups including those from India who were formally associated with the LTTE have all renounced affiliation and prefer to solve the issues through diplomatic means. It must also be understood that the LTTE had de-facto control over the territory meaning that if were not supportive, you could assume the worst in being labeled as a spy for the Sri Lankan government. The Tamil Diaspora organizations and political parties within India call for a U.N. referendum to recognize the “State of Tamil Eelam” based on the principles of remedial justice as the continuing atrocities faced by Tamils in Sri Lanka since independence have not been addressed.
International tribunals led by prominent international legal scholars and former U.N. officials have labeled the events which took place in early 2009 nothing short of a “genocide” and certain national courts in Europe such as those in Italy have even labeled the LTTE as a revolutionary organization to be removed from the terror lists as it abolished the Hindu “caste system” during its control of Tamil Eelam. A judgment from the European Court of Justice (ECJ) is expected to remove the organization from the terror lists of the European Union (EU) in the next few months as well since it no longer exists and never posed a threat to the international community during the war.
It is based on the internationally accepted cannons of right and wrong including the U.N. Charter that Tamils today call for a separate nation as after such atrocities, it would not be morally right to subject Tamils to live in a nation which has been trying to exterminate them and to this day, denies them equal rights. Tamil Eelam is the homeland of the Tamils which has existed for thousands of years in peace with its Sinhalese neighbors from the southern regions of the island prospering with an economy of agriculture, mining, fishing, etc before the British conquest of the sub-continent.
The division of Sri Lanka based on these principles through a U.N. referendum is a proposition which many nations may have to look into as we learn more about the genocide of Tamils given their right to self-determination and principles of remedial sovereignty. Former U.S. Presidential Special Envoy to Sudan Richard S. Williamson and U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright had stated that the least the U.S. could do for the Eelam Tamils was to grant them the right of remedial sovereignty after the genocide in 2009 in her report regarding the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine. Former External Affairs Minister of India Yashwant Sinha has also gone on record several times to state that his party does not seek the division of Sri Lanka but if the government refuses to grant Tamils an acceptable political solution, a separate nation cannot be ruled and Tamil Eelam is not far away. It is not to depend on promises by these public figures or politicians but to prove how one can see the logic for the need of a separate Tamil nation.
So it is not without a just and moral basis that groups advocating for Tamil Eelam are calling for a peaceful resolution to the longstanding issue of Tamil Eelam today as equal rights and eventually independence are all issues which cannot be avoided nor will they go away anytime in the future much the spite of the government of Sri Lanka and the Rajapaksa administration. Tamils are nearly 100 million strong worldwide while the population of the entire nation of Sri Lanka is only 20 million and it would be a grave injustice to an entire race to classify as terrorists for speaking of political aspirations without proving any affiliation to the LTTE today. The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), maintaining membership of parties of the extreme right and left, once coordinated a date to fly in all Palestinians living abroad to Israel to peacefully demonstrate their “right to return” and one can only speculate on the implications for the government if that were to occur in Sri Lanka.
The peaceful yet powerful pen can be mightier than the sword at times and there is strength in numbers. The LTTE have been destroyed and militancy has been eliminated but the next generation of leaders in India and Sri Lanka will carry on the Tamil Eelam national struggle until it is resolved as oppressors have never gained victory through violence throughout history as Yasin Malik, Chairman of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) said recently in his speech expressing solidarity with Tamil Eelam and the Tamil people, not necessarily the LTTE.